November 6, 2012
Putin Discusses National Security with Solzhenitsyn's Widow
Yesterday Natalya Solzhenitsyn told the Russian president about a two-volume book being published to celebrate 50 years of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. She also said that Russia's national security and integrity are at risk. Kommersant's special correspondent Andrei Kolesnikov believes the Tykwer/Wachowski film Cloud Atlas could help improve this.
The president and Alexander Solzhenitsyn's widow met 50 years after One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich saw the light of day. Natalya Solzhenitsyn said the special commemorative edition includes One Day and readers' letters to the magazine Novy Mir, which published it. The magazine kept these letters, many of which were addressed simply to "Ivan Denisovich," for 50 years.
Natalya Solzhenitsyn spoke simply and to the point: "The reason to publish these books is to preserve our collective memory. It's a remedy for memory loss, which is a weak person's, a weak society's and a weak state's disease."
Putin asked if Solzhenitsyn's works are on the list of required reading in schools.
Natalya Solzhenitsyn said One Day was added to the curricula during Boris Yeltsin's presidency. "As for The Gulag Archipelago, it's only recommended reading and no questions about it have been added to the Unified State Examination list," she said.
But if The Gulag Archipelago were to be made obligatory reading, students would have little time left to read the other books on the list, like Dostoyevsky.
"As for national security," Natalya said unexpectedly, inciting the interest of Putin, who knows that Novy Mir is not alone in keeping archives.
"The number of literature courses has been cut from five to two," she said. "In my time, people quoted from [Griboyedov's] Woe from Wit, which formed a bond between them."
Now they are only brought together by the Unified State Examination and even that is not everyone and not for long.
"What are they teaching people in place of literature? To smile at each other?" Natalya wondered.
"The number of school subjects is increasing," Putin argued.
"That is completely wrong," Natalya Solzhenitsyn replied. It was as if Solzhenitsyn himself was talking with the president.
"There is a great threat to the country's unity," she said.
"We will discuss this issue with the Education Ministry," Putin said, although security falls under the purview of the defense department.
In Cloud Atlas, the latest film by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, the main character watches a trailer from a prohibited documentary quoting Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and that phrase resonates throughout the film, a film that tells viewers about freedom and eternity.
It does not matter whether or not The Gulag Archipelago is made obligatory reading in school, because Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a perfectly free man, has already become part of eternity.
And those who have not read The Gulag will at least see Cloud Atlas.
Putin dismisses defense minister after scandal
By Thomas Grove
November 6, 2012
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly dismissed his defense minister on Tuesday after a multi-million dollar corruption scandal and appointed a longtime ally to oversee military reforms.
Putin announced on television that he had fired Anatoly Serdyukov, who had become a liability due to an investigation into the sale of ministry assets at suspiciously low prices.
Serdyukov's replacement in a job which had been long eyed by rivals, former emergencies minister Sergei Shoigu, is untainted by corruption and popular among Russians. Shoigu has also proved immensely loyal and shown few signs of political ambitions in nearly two decades in senior posts.
Putin's announcement made at a meeting with Shoigu appeared designed to show he will crack down on high-level corruption in his new, six-year presidential term.
"Taking into consideration the situation around the Defense Ministry, in order to create conditions for an objective investigation into all matters, I have decided to free Defense Minister Serdyukov of his post," Putin said, sitting across the table from Shoigu at a state residence outside Moscow.
The defense minister wields immense power in Russia, channeling billions of dollars every year through the country's powerful defense industry, the second largest arms exporter in the world. Putin has promised to spend 23 trillion roubles ($726.30 billion) on the military by the end of the decade.
Putin said at the televised meeting that the new minister must continue "grandiose plans for the reform of the army".
Russian investigators raided the offices of Defense Ministry firm Oboronservis last month and opened an investigation into the company on suspicion that it had sold assets to commercial firms at a loss of nearly $100 million.
The investigation also raised questions about Serdyukov's relationship with a former top female military bureaucrat, whose apartment was found to contain dozens of expensive paintings, rare antiques and more than 100 valuable rings.
A Russian tabloid newspaper with connections with the country's security personnel reported that Serdyukov was in the apartment as well when the raid began.
ENEMIES IN HIGH PLACES
A one-time furniture salesman, Serdyukov owed much of his career to the influence of his father-in-law Viktor Zubkov, a former prime minister and trusted associate of Putin.
Serdyukov's control over Russia's arms budget had earned him enemies among ambitious Kremlin figures, including Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin who oversees the country's defense industry, government sources say.
His military reforms, which reorganized troops, cut the number of officers by more than 100,000 and exposed high level corruption, also made him disliked in the ranks.
However, his alleged role in helping to dismantle the assets of jailed former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky while he still worked in the tax office had led many analysts to believe Serdyukov was untouchable and would weather the scandal.
Shoigu, 57, an army general, was emergencies minister from 1994 until this year, when he became governor of the Moscow region.
Although the Russian authorities were criticized in 2010 over forest fires that caused Moscow to suffer for weeks under smoke and toxic fumes, his loyalty to Putin and a background untainted by corruption have stood him in good stead.
"Shoigu is unknown in our country as a great strategist or as a powerful military officer, but that is not needed in the post of the minister of defense," said Alexei Arbatov, a military analyst at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
"If the defense minister is largely an administrative post, then Shoigu has very great merits ... As an administrator he is already regarded very highly and moreover, he is popular in Russia and in social opinion," he said.
When he was serving as emergencies minister he was the most highly regarded minister by Moscow-based pollster VTsIOM.
Putin wishes success to his new defence minister
Text of report by state-owned Russian news channel Rossiya 24 on 6 November
(Presenter) (Russian President) Vladimir Putin has sacked Defence Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov and has appointed Sergey Shoygu, who has up till now been the governor of Moscow Region, to the post. At a meeting at Novo-Ogarevo, the president explained that Serdyukov's dismissal was necessary for an objective investigation of the Defence Ministry's actions. The new Moscow Region governor election is expected to be held in September next year.
(Putin) You are aware of the situation that has, unfortunately, developed recently around the Defence Ministry. In order to create the necessary conditions for an objective investigation of all the issues that have arisen, I have decided to relieve Defence Minister Anatoliy Eduardovich Serdyukov of his post.
At the same time, a lot has been done in recent years for the development of the armed forces, for addressing issues of servicemen's welfare - I mean the rise in pay and tackling the issue of housing and other matters that previously remained unresolved for years. I am saying this so that the future head of this very important, one of the most important ministries in the country, should be a person who is capable of continuing all the good things that have been done in recent years and ensuring dynamic development for the country's armed forces, ensuring the fulfilment of the state defence order and the great plans for re-arming the army and the fleet that we have.
Given the above, I believe that you could be this person and I invite you to take the post of the defence minister of the Russian Federation.
(Shoygu) Thank you, Vladimir Vladimirovich. The proposal is an unexpected one, but I will try to do everything in my power to meet the tasks set to the Armed Forces. Indeed, a lot has been done and I propose to rely first and foremost on the army collective, on those who have been brought up by it, who have done a lot for the army and who, of course, continues to work in the Armed Forces. Thank you very much. I shall try to live up to the trust you have shown in me.
(Putin) Indeed, the army has a very strong human resources and intellectual potential, which needs to be used to the full.
I know that you just recently began working as the governor of Moscow Region. You have already created the necessary conditions for addressing the issues that the region is facing, which are numerous, as we are well aware, financial, economic and social ones; you have set up a capable team. I hope that the future governor, who will be elected by the people, which will happen not sooner than in a year's time, will be able to get good work going on there. I will soon decide on the person who be acting as the governor of Moscow Region.
I wish you success in your new capacity. You are an experienced and knowledgeable man; you are a military man - the fact that you drew attention to the need to use the intellectual and human resources potential of the Armed Forces is absolutely correct. I wish you success.
(Shoygu) Thank you.
Russian MPs and senators praise defence minister's dismissal
November 6, 2012
The dismissal of Russian Defence Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov has been welcomed by senior figures in the Duma and the Federation Council, media sources reported. Serdyukov's critics pointed to the way the military are being reorganized and to a fraud scandal that has recently erupted at the ministry. They contrasted this to the record of his replacement, Sergey Shoygu, formerly emergencies minister and Moscow Region governor.
"It was late but the time comes when you have to answer for what you do," the Communist Party's Viktor Komoyedov, a retired admiral who chairs the Duma Defence Committee, said.
"I'm not talking about the serious abuses that the law-enforcement bodies found at Oboronservis," he told Interfax news agency, referring to allegations of fraud at a company managing Defence Ministry property. "What I mean is that under Serdyukov the Armed Forces were reformed in a way that failed to draw on the Soviet and Russian armies' positive traditions."
Aleksey Pushkov, the One Russia (United Russia) chair of the International Affairs Committee, agreed on the Oboronservis angle. "Putin has sacked Serdyukov because of the latest scandal," he wrote on Twitter. "Decision overdue. Abroad, ministers resign of their own accord after such scandals."
In the Federation Council, First Deputy Speaker Aleksandr Torshin described Putin's move as "an appropriate decision by the head of state".
The Oboronservis story has been a serious "image and reputational blow" to the military, he told Interfax, calling for a full and open investigation. He was full of praise for Shoygu, who "created the Emergencies Ministry from scratch, and today it can handle the most complex and difficult of tasks".
Noting Shoygu's consistently high confidence ratings among the public, Torshin continued: "We now need to restore trust in the leadership of the Ministry of Defence as an institution and Shoygu's appointment is a good step in terms of the image, because he is not only a military man and not just a colonel-general but a Hero of Russia, a decisive man, a man of results who sets a goal and knows how to attain it."
The first deputy chair of the Defence and Security Committee agreed. "Sergey Shoygu has great experience of running large organizations such as the Emergencies Ministry," Nikolay Fedoryak told Interfax-AVN military news agency. "He is a man of impeccable reputation ... I think that the president has done the right thing by appointing him."
For him, Oboronservis was one scandal too many with the outgoing minister. "The failures with the military reform, the corruption now found at the ministry, there's been nothing like this in the history of the Armed Forces," Fedoryak said. "So I think the president's decision to replace Serdyukov is justified although probably overdue."
November 6, 2012
Defense chief firing key step in Russia's military reform experts
The replacement of Russia's Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov with former Emergencies Ministry chief Sergey Shoigu is a significant move in countering corruption in the Army and in the country in general, experts agree.
President Vladimir Putin sacked Serdyukov after his ministry was drawn into a major scandal over alleged selling off of Defense Ministry's assets.
Putin, as well as his predecessor Dmitry Medvedev, has named countering corruption in Russia as one of his main goals. The dismissal of such a high-ranking official and Putin's long-time ally indicates there are no "untouchables" in this battle.
Prime Minister Medvedev pointed out on Tuesday that Serdyukov was "an efficient Defense Minister, proven by the transformation he made to the Armed Forces" .He admitted that some mistakes were made, "but there's no other way to have serious reforms."
Serduykov showed his professionalism during the operation in Georgia, in August 2008 which was "absolutely successful from the military point of view," Medvedev, the then-president pointed out. In addition, following the conflict in the Caucasus the minister confirmed the need to further modernize the Russian Armed Forces.
However, the premier stressed that the embezzlement investigation should be swiftly brought to a close and it should be left to a court to decide the outcome.
This case might be seen as a signal to civil servants and society in general that even allegations of being involved in corruption "must lead to real actions," a senior MP from the United Russia party, Aleksey Chesnakov told Itar-Tass.
The move was welcomed in Russian political circles, where Shoigy known for his "crystal-clear" reputation is seen as a far better candidate than Serdyukov to head the scandal-marred military establishment. A criminal probe into a suspected $100 million property scam at Oboronservis which is a company run through the Defense Ministry has seriously damaged the ministry's image. One of Shoigu's major tasks now is to restore public confidence.
In that respect, appointing Shoigu who was awarded Hero of Russia is a "good step," upper house's speaker Aleksandr Torshin pointed out, cites Interfax. In addition, he "has no personal or career ties" in the ministry and that will seriously damage "corruption schemes" in the Russian Army.
Unlike Serdyukov, who was Russia's first civilian Defense Minister, Shoigu holds the rank of General of the Army that certainly gives him points in the eyes of the military. In addition, he is one of the most popular Russian politicians, while Serduykov has faced public criticism especially in connection with military reform that involved firing a large number of officers. Yet another thing that irritated the military about Serduykov was that often he did not take their opinion into account when making decisions.
"A person who has never been in command of even a battalion had suddenly become the head of the defense agency," Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov pointed out, commenting on Serduykov's appointment back in 2007."His reforms were a complete idiocy," he added.
By putting forward Shoigu to head the Defense Ministry, Putin has tried to regain popularity among the military, believes political analyst Igor Bunin.
"He has shown that he makes harsh decisions and no illness can hamper him from ruling the country," he said, referring to recent speculations in the media about Putin's problems with health.
Sergey Shoigu is credited with the creation of Russia's Emergencies Ministry, which is often called the most efficient in the country. His previous experience as well as excellent managing skills will certainly help him at his new post where the new minister will face a number of challenges from completing the army reform to solving problems with salaries, pensions and housing for military personnel.
"And that's not enough. What's most important now is improve the combat readiness of the Armed Forces in at least three years," said Vladimir Komoyedov State Duma Defense Committee.
As part of the massive army reform, Russia will spend 23 trillion roubles ($720 billion) on the military by the end of decade.
"Securing the dynamic development of the Armed Forces, the nuclear and space industries, the defense industry, military education, fundamental military science and applied research programs will remain a key priority of Russian government policy," Putin stressed in an article published during his presidential campaign.
Back then, he stressed that Russia's goals in defense and national security cannot be achieved without high morale and motivation in the army and defense plants or without respect for the Armed Forces in society.
November 6, 2012
U.S. Can Learn From Russia About Unity
The extended holiday weekend gave us a chance to think about how the U.S. should borrow a page from Russia and introduce a new holiday of its own also called National Unity Day.
As Americans go to the polls Tuesday to elect a president, the din from "blue" supporters of incumbent Barack Obama and the "red" proponents of challenger Mitt Romney has grown to a mind-numbing roar. The two groups' stringent opposition to each other's ideals represents a bitter rivalry rarely seen since slavery split the country and led to the Civil War from 1861 to 1865.
What ever happened to a common vision and the desire to work for the common good, universal values that once won the admiration and envy of people around the world? Instead, moderate Americans are vanishing as they join the ranks of once-fringe elements of the Democratic or Republican parties, all the while insisting that their side represents true patriotism and U.S. democratic values.
The Americans have the right to fight among themselves. They are, however, creating an embarrassing spectacle as the world looks on, amazed at the divisive bickering of an economically declining nation that once stood proud as a global leader. But when U.S. pettiness and pride start roiling international markets, as it did when mean-spirited brinkmanship nearly caused the U.S. government to default on its debt last year, the world also has a stake in the battle.
In this heated atmosphere of anger and hatred, the first act of the next U.S. president should be to set aside a day for national unity and to lead the way by taking the first public steps toward reconciliation.
This would stand in marked contrast to President Vladimir Putin, who took a lot of flak in 2005 when he created National Unity Day, a public holiday that commemorates the defeat of invading Polish fighters in 1612 and was remembered only by the most studious historians. Putin has done little to promote unity, and there is little doubt that he chose the Nov. 4 date for its proximity to Revolution Day, thus allowing him to discard the Soviet-era holiday on Nov. 7 while still giving people a day off from work.
The new holiday also has its own problems, particularly since Russia's own fringe "patriots" have steadfastly tried to hijack it as a time to promote racial intolerance under the banner of "Russia for Russians." Furthermore, many Russians still don't know the reason for the holiday and consider it little more than a day off work, according to a Levada Center opinion poll released last week.
But the idea for the holiday, national unity, is commendable. In 1994, South Africa introduced the Day of Reconciliation, celebrated on Dec. 16, to foster national unity after the bitter era of apartheid. Germany celebrates Unity Day on Oct. 3, the anniversary of the reunification of the two divided Germanies.
Even before Putin introduced National Unity Day, President Boris Yeltsin in 1996 renamed the Nov. 7 holiday as the Day of Accord and Reconciliation, believing that memorializing the 1917 Revolution was dividing society rather than uniting it.
Americans are tearing each other apart, and it's not only those on the losing side who will be bitter, bruised and broken after Tuesday's election.
The U.S. president doesn't often look to Russia for lessons. But this is one case where he should.
Bolshevik Revolution 'Good for Russia' - Poll
MOSCOW, November 6 (RIA Novosti) - Almost one-third of Russians believe the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 jumpstarted the country's development and opened a new page in its history, according to a poll published on Tuesday.
However, the share of respondents with a positive view of the revolution has declined over the past decade, from 34 to 27 percent, the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion on Social and Economic Issues (VTsIOM) poll said.
At the same time the share of the people who see the revolution as "a catastrophe for our country" has increased from 10 percent to 18 percent.
About 43 percent of respondents said the root cause of the revolution was the miserable life of the people with 17 percent saying a weak government was a factor and 11 percent blaming the Bolsheviks' "political unscrupulousness."
Some 40 percent said the revolution, though a mixed blessing, was inevitable, while 37 percent believed the needless loss of human life and the trouble it caused meant there was no justification for it.
Eighteen percent said they would observe Revolution Day on November 7, compared to 16 percent who said they would celebrate National Unity Day on November 4.
The poll was conducted on October 27-28 in 46 areas across Russia. The margin of error was 3.4 percent.
Most Russians against allowing revolutions - poll
November 6, 2012
Most polled Russians believe that a revolution cannot be allowed to take place in the country nowadays, the Russian news agency Interfax reported on 6 November.
According to a poll carried out by the state-funded All-Russian Centre for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), most respondents are convinced that a revolution cannot be allowed to take place in Russia nowadays (78 per cent). The majority of those who share this view are people who consider revolutions to be tragic events (89 per cent), One Russia (United Russia) supporters (85 per cent), supporters of non-parliamentary parties (86 per cent) and those who approve of the president's work (86 per cent), Interfax said.
The share of respondents who perceive revolutions to be catastrophic for Russia has increased in the past decade from 10 to 18 per cent. Another 17 per cent see them as obstacles on the path of socio-economic development, Interfax said.
Meanwhile, 40 per cent of Russians believe that revolutions in general are unavoidable and have their pluses and minuses while 37 per cent believe that it is impossible to justify revolutions.
Only 15 per cent of polled Russians have positive attitudes towards revolutions, above all, they are Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) supporters (23 per cent) and Communist Party (CPRF) supporters (26 per cent), Interfax said. The figure was 10 per cent seven years ago, Interfax added.
Furthermore, 13 per cent of Russians believe that Russia needs a revolution. This view is mainly shared by those who see revolutions as an opportunity for change (31 per cent), LDPR and CPRF supporters (32 and 27 per cent respectively) and respondents who are critical towards the president's work (27 per cent), Interfax said.
The poll was conducted among 1,600 people in 46 constituent parts of Russia on 27-28 October, Interfax said.
[return to Contents]
Russia Beyond the Headlines/Izvestia
November 6, 2012
Political protests have made Russians more interested in elections
Sociological research shows that Russians are taking more of an interest in politics. Experts think citizens have been inspired by the recent political protests in Russia's big cities.
By Olga Zhermeleva, Izvestia
Russians have started to pay more attention to the democratic processes that are happening within the country. According to sociologists working at the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), over the past three years there has been a marked increase in civil interest toward municipal and regional elections. Although turnout remains lower than 50 percent, the actual election has become more important for Russian people.
In October 2009, for example, only 34 percent of respondents saw the elections as a significant event; but according to the results of a single general election day held on October 14, 2012, this figure had jumped to 40 percent. At the same time, 43 percent of respondents were convinced that the ordinary voter had little effect on the overall election results (this opinion was held by 45 percent of respondents in October 2009).
VTsIOM established that, during regional elections, the most active people were supporters of the parties with no seats in parliament (75 percent turnout). Among political parties represented in the State Duma, the least disciplined were the supporters of the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Only 41 percent of LDPR supporters showed up at elections, while the turnout for supporters of other parties represented in parliament was around 58-59 percent.
Experts chalk these results up to a marked increase in civic engagement over the past year.
According to VTsIOM's general director, Valery Fedorov, "The growth of civic engagement manifests itself in a number of different ways: in the form of "white ribbon" movements, and in the electorate's willingness to observe and take part in voting (including in local government elections)." However, the expert says that much of this is thanks to the activities of the parties themselves.
"Before this, only United Russia and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) played an active part in regional elections. After introducing municipal filters and liberalizing the process for registering parties, there are now a larger number of candidates who take part in local elections. This has helped to stir up the interest of both the parties and ordinary voters," said Fedorov.
The president of the Institute of National Strategy, Mikhail Remizov, suggests that, while United Russia supporters could mobilize voters more actively, it is possible that the opposition could also work more actively with the protest electorate.
"It seems likely that the 'average' turnout will remain the same in the next elections, since there are still no grounds for a noticeable change. It is important to avoid a failure in turnout, as happened in Vladivostok or Kaliningrad i.e., in cities where interest in politics among the citizens is high. In such cases, the low turnout indicates that the elections are being sabotaged," said Remizov.
The opposition parties themselves suggest that the data obtained by VTsIOM reflects failures in Russia's political reforms.
"The results of the regional elections are an indication that political reform is not as effective as it should be," said Anatoly Lokot, a Communist Party deputy. "No new party has a representative in the local legislative assembly."
First published in Russian in Izvestia.
November 6, 2012
An interview with Mikhail Dmitriyev of the Strategic Studies Center
By Mikhail Zubov
Question: Why did the idea of a revolution attain such
popularity... all of a sudden?
Mikhail Dmitriyev: Attain popularity it certainly did. Over
the last six months or so, I guess. These days, this idea is
viewed as one of the potential turns of events in Russia. This
shift in mass conscience is not complete yet, but the average
Russian's mentality these days is certainly different from what it
was only recently.
Question: And when shall we expect a revolution?
Mikhail Dmitriyev: Ask somebody else. Sociologists do not
think that people are ready for a revolution. On the contrary,
their readiness for active protests seems to be ebbing. By and
large, people start to believe that renovation of the regime
through protests is a surer way than its renovation through
Since elections lack legitimacy in the eyes of the Russians,
it is revolutions that seem to attain additional legitimacy. And
yet, I'd like to repeat that the Russians are not ready for any
active protests in the hope to change the status quo. General
public is developing certainly depressive moods with regard to the
powers-that-be and to all and any political efforts. The Russian
population is particularly depressed.
Question: Considering that the Russians do not feel like
protesting... what ethnic groups do?
Mikhail Dmitriyev: We studied representatives of the
Dagestani diaspora in Moscow... those who remain in touch with
their families and friends at home. People from the Caucasus
regard all problems from the position of activeness. They firmly
believe that they are the masters of their destiny, that they have
the right and the power to do something about their lives.
Question: What does their active position come down to? Do
they actively vote or do they join armed resistance?
Mikhail Dmitriyev: Both. Elections in the Caucasus were
fiercely competitive. The elites in North Ossetia for example were
split among United Russia and Russian Patriots... and voters were
Psychologically speaking, the Dagestanis are better off then
the Russians. From the social standpoint, however... Here is an
example. This episode was reported by all federal TV channels. Two
traffic police checkpoints were blown up in Dagestan. You know
why? Because the officers who manned them had become too greedy.
They had started to demand too much from drivers. The Dagestanis
took care of it. They solved the problem. And the authorities got
the message. It finally dawned on them that people were fed up
with exaction. This is an example of an active position... how the
Dagestanis perceive it.
Question: In a word, the population won't mind having a
revolution launched and carried out by someone else. Is there this
Mikhail Dmitriyev: Only 4% respondents admit readiness to
participate in protests. Even less than that are prepared to go
out and defend the regime if it comes to that. We examined Moscow
protests and tried to discover what was happening to the movement
as such. Unfortunately, we cannot be one hundred percent certain
but the impression is that the movement is splitting nowadays.
Leftists part company with rightists, professors refuse to be
associated with nationalists and [Sergei] Udaltsov's followers.
Regrouping is under way. There is no saying how long this process
might take or where it may lead. One things is clear: there were
the people who were frustrated, and there are people who are
frustrated. The only difference is that these people are now weary
of screaming in streets and demanding a new election. And nobody
can come up with anything new by way of protests.
Question: All right, what conclusions should the powers-that-
be draw from all of that?
Mikhail Dmitriyev: We are witnessing the growing antagonism
between the powers-that-be and the population, and that's a signal
the former had better bear in mind. [Vladimir] Putin's PR stunts
were taken in stride this spring. They were looked on benevolently
then. These days, they foment hostility. Putin's latest stunt -
this flight with cranes - stirred the population. It decided
almost unanimously that Putin had other more pressing problems to
attend and that ornithology ought to be the least of his problems.
Society is losing hope that political institutions - from the
powers-that-be to the opposition - can do anything to remedy the
situation. The impression is that the whole political system - not
just Putin alone but all of the system - is drifting away from the
people and its needs. It cannot be safe, you know.
Question: What is the danger considering that nobody is ready
for active protests?
Mikhail Dmitriyev: And if another economic crisis struck?
Society can bide its time and refuse to vent its grievances for
long periods. It did so in the past. But an additional irritant
provides a spark and everything goes up in flames.
Question: What shall the authorities do to ease this tension?
Mikhail Dmitriyev: They should change. This is society's
principal demand. Society is waiting for new leaders even though
it does not know yet what kind of leaders it wants to see in the
corridors of power.
Question: Putin cannot change - or go for that matter. He was
recently elected for a six-year period. Will [Dmitry] Medvedev's
resignation have the desired calming effect on society?
Mikhail Dmitriyev: No, I do not think that it will. Not
anymore. A simple removal of one politician and installation of
another is not going to suffice. Nothing short of straightforward
interaction between the powers-that-be and society will do, said
interaction aiming at renovation of the former. As things stand,
however, we see the authorities moving in the opposite direction.
They seek consolation in what they perceive as stability whereas
society wants changes and renovation more than it craves
stability. Demands of society had better be met or tension will
keep accumulating. Once again, it does not mean that all of that
must end in an explosion.
Question: But the report drawn by the Strategic Studies
Center allows for a revolution...
Mikhail Dmitriyev: The media laid its hands on a short
version of the report. Anyway, no revolution is possible at this
point because society is depressed... Even if it came to that,
there will be no civil wars in Russia. They are history. I reckon
that it will rather be something like a nationwide Italian strike
when more and more people stop obeying the authorities. Mass
discontent with the regime will result in a situation where
society will be condemning even correct actions on the part of the
powers-that-be. And thus interfering with the moves that might
makes its life better. When society plays against the system, the
country inevitably becomes uncontrollable.
Question: You are sure that there will be no bloodshed?
Mikhail Dmitriyev: Yes, I'm. Because people who shed blood
are never trusted. There is a taboo on bloodshed in Russian
Question: But blood was shed in Bolotnaya Square this May.
Rocks were thrown, clubs used...
Mikhail Dmitriyev: Yes, and it merely strengthened the
existing antagonism between the powers-that-be and society.
Question: Will anything change in the event Putin promises
now to step down in 2018?
Mikhail Dmitriyev: Society does not want to see Putin gone in
the hope that everything will be all right then. Putin has no
alternatives at this point and society knows it. What society
demands is help with a search for an alternative.
Question: All right, is there anything uplifting in your
studies? Or rather, in what sociologists discover?
Mikhail Dmitriyev: Yes, the situation with teenagers. We
conducted a poll among teenagers... youngsters who were going to
come of age and become voters in the next presidential election.
They are not as despondent as their parents and not as aggressive
as the Dagestanis are. They firmly believe that Russia needs hired
managers in the halls of power.
All Politics Is Local: Rating Russia's Regions
MOSCOW, November 6 (Dan Peleschuk, RIA Novosti) Economic progress, a clear political mandate, and good press: these are the things, according to a new report by a leading Russian think tank, that make a Russian region truly stable.
It was otherwise largely unnoticed regions, such as Mordovia, that fared best in the rating, despite other ostensibly more likely contenders and the considerable federal spending in the volatile North Caucasus aimed at bringing stability to the region.
Known for its annual survival ratings for Russian governors, the St. Petersburg Politics Fund, headed by political analyst Mikhail Vinogradov, drafted the report to supplement what Vinogradov called a lack of attention to Russia's regions.
The Mordovia, Amur and Belgorod Regions took the top three spots, respectively. Their success was largely ascribed to efficient public officials, broad support for their elected representatives, and investment in local industry.
In Amur, for example, Governor Oleg Kozhemyako, who has lobbied the federal center for tax breaks for his region, commanded 77 percent of the vote in last month's regional elections. Similar reasons lie behind Belgorod's good performance, the study says.
The country's three most volatile republics in the North Caucasus region - Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Chechnya - all fared the worst. They have seen a series of high-profile killings and suicide bombings in recent months perpetrated by the fundamentalist Islamic insurgency in the region.
The report pointed to Chechen Head Ramzan Kadyrov's recent BBC interview, in which the leader jokingly downplayed rumors of a "death list," as negative publicity that helps weigh down Chechnya's rating.
Recent instructions by Dagestan's President Magomedsalam Magodemov to create vigilante "self-defense units" to counter the Islamist threat in the region, also did nothing to help boost Dagestan's ratings, the report found.
The study considered political, economic and social developments in September and October while compiling the rankings.
Vinogradov told RIA Novosti on Tuesday that because the rankings are based on contemporary political and social dynamics, they may fluctuate particularly, he added, the top three spots.
Moscow Times/BBC Monitoring
What the Papers Say, Nov. 6, 2012
1. Ksenia Dementyeva and Svetlana Dementyeva article headlined "5 Banks Come to Sergei Ignatyev" says that Russia's leading private banks have joined their efforts to demand less regulation of the banking sector engaged in consumer credits. The heads of the banks warned that new tough regulations drafted by the Russian Central Bank would make bank loans unaffordable to many people; pp 1, 10 (719 words).
2. Kabai Karabekov et al. report headlined "Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Be Armed With Russian Money" says that Moscow plans to spend $1.1 billion on re-armament of the Kyrgyz armed forces and $200 million on Tajikistan in response to U.S. attempts to play a greater role in Central Asia; pp 1, 7 (792 words).
3. Konstantin Eggert interview with Israeli President Shimon Peres ahead of his visit to Moscow. The senior official speaks on the Syrian crisis and relations between Russia and Israel; pp 1, 8 (2,553 words).
4. Roman Rozhkov article headlined "Torrents Get Into Trouble" outlines measures drafted by the Russian Economic Development Ministry to fight against Internet-based piracy; pp 1, 13 (594 words).
5. Kirill Antonov and Ilya Barabanov article headlined "Mintimer Shaimiyev Protects Tatar Rights From Imperial Ones" comments on former Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiyev's criticism of United Russia, who spoke out against plans to ban the use of the title president for heads of republics in Russia; p 2 (899 words).
6. Natalya Bashlykova et al. report headlined "United Russia Staff Cannot Be Reshuffled" says that reshuffle plans for United Russia's regional branches announced by Dmitry Medvedev have not been implemented so far. Eight out of 10 heads of the United Russia branches kept their posts after regional conferences; p 2 (762 words).
7. Maxim Ivanov et al. report headlined "Arkady Rotenberg Works for Chuvashia Rating" reports on the rating of political stability of Russian regions calculated by the St. Petersburg Politics fund; p 2 (760 words).
8. Andrei Kolesnikov article headlined "Not a Single Day Without Ivan Denisovich" reports on President Vladimir Putin's meeting with Alexander Solzhenitsyn's widow, Natalya, to discuss literature and Russia's national security; p 3 (656 words).
9. Ilya Shepelin and Oleg Yeruslanov article headlined "Russian March Taken for Fancy-Dress Ball" says United Russia lawmakers have complained to the law-enforcement agencies about participants in the nationalist march in Moscow on Nov. 4 as many of them wore face masks despite the ban; p 4 (579 words).
10. Kirill Belyaninov article headlined "Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to Compare Their Equal Chances" says experts do not rule out the possibility of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney getting the same number of votes in the presidential election; p 7 (621 words).
11. Pyotr Netreba article headlined "Dmitry Medvedev to Open Transport Corridor for Asia" says Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will make proposals for development of new transport corridors in Asia at an international forum in Vietnam; p 7 (761 words).
12. Georgy Dvali article headlined "Georgia Threatened With Prison Revolution" says that an increasing number of prison inmates and their relatives are protesting against prison conditions in Georgia. The situation risks turning into a prison revolt; p 7 (523 words).
1. Timofei Dzyadko article headlined "Base of Possibilities" says Rosneft president Igor Sechin is setting up an investment holding company to work in Russia and abroad; pp 1, 10 (546 words).
2. Editorial headlined "Whom Police Work for" says that the effectiveness of the Russian police reforms depends on the work of the whole law-enforcement system; pp 1, 4 (508 words).
3. Olga Kuvshinova report "Another Budget" says that analysts from BNP Paribas have discovered that Russia's GDP and the share of the state sector have reached 50 percent and are unlikely to decrease; p 1 (600 words).
4. Anton Trifonov report "Half of Market Goes to West" says that trade in Russian companies' securities is shifting abroad; p 1 (600 words).
5. Maria Zheleznova et al. report "Rough Council" says that the presidential human rights council, in reply to Putin's proposal to expand the makeup of the body, has asked not to appoint deputies and members of the Public Chamber; p 2 (500 words).
6. Anastasia Kornya report "Caucasus Below" says that political analysts have assessed the level of social and political well-being of Russian regions. Dagestan and Ingushetia turned out to be outsiders, the article says; p 2 (550 words).
7. Polina Khimshiashvili report "Questionable Zero" says that the Ukrainian Central Elections Commission has failed to sum up the parliamentary election results. The opposition members threatened they would return their mandates; p 2 (550 words).
8. Yevgenia Pismennaya report "5 Challenges for Medvedev" says that the government has discussed the draft plan of its activities until 2018. The Cabinet has failed to approve the document, but defined the main challenges. People want to more actively participate in public life, the document says; p 3 (600 words).
9. Editorial headlined "Non-Respected Minority Shareholders" says the number of investors on the Russian stock market has reduced by 25 percent over a year. The trend is attributed to the bad investment climate in the country; p 4 (375 words).
10. Yevgenia Pismennaya and Maria Zheleznova interview with head of the Civil Initiatives Committee and former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin speaking on Rosneft buying TNK-BP, on the pension reform and the political situation in the country; p 7 (5,459 words).
11. Marat Davletbayev report "Vladimir Putin and Legalism" says that the main hallmark of political life in Russia over the last few months was recriminations between the authorities and the opposition regarding a lack of ideology and a clear program; p 4 (700 words).
12. Ksenia Boletskaya report "VTB's Satellite" says that the VTB Group is holding talks about buying blocking shares of Russia's biggest operator of paid television, National Satellite Company; p 9 (700 words).
13. Anastasia Golitsyna report "Google Without Right to Signature" says that it is difficult for foreign companies to learn whether their resources have been included in the list of banned websites; p 15 (700 words).
1. Yelizaveta Mayetnaya article headlined "Russia May Be Ousted From Council of Europe Because of Defense Ministry" says the Russian Defense Ministry has ignored the rulings by the European Court of Human Rights, as 30 servicemen who won lawsuits against the ministry have not been provided with flats; pp 1, 4 (1,587 words).
2. Taras Podrez article headlined "Chubais Commissions Romney to Work Out Development Strategy for Rusnano" says that Rusnano corporation head Anatoly Chubais has commissioned a company linked to U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney to draft a development strategy for his corporation; pp 1-2 (901 words).
3. Pyotr Kozlov article headlined "Country to Be Left Without Internal Migrants and National Minorities" says the council for ethnic relations under the Russian president wants to introduce politically correct names for ethnic minorities; pp 1, 4 (461 words).
4. Tatyana Sharapova article headlined "Navalny 'to Be Calmed Down' by 10,000 Lawsuits" says United Russia activist Vladimir Svirid wants to file over 10,000 lawsuits against opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who called United Russia the "party of crooks and thieves"; p 2 (423 words).
5. Svetlana Subbotina article headlined "Prosecutor General's Office Asked to Check Romney Jr." says that A Just Russia lawmaker has asked the Prosecutor General's Office to check the reasons for the visit of Mitt Romney's son to Moscow last week; p 2 (519 words).
6. Mikhail Rubin report "Central Elections Commission Does Not Recognize U.S. Election" says that NGOs have prepared a report, ordered by the commission, about violations in the forthcoming presidential election in the U.S.A.; p 3 (700 words).
7. Ivan Afanasyev article headlined "We Have Figures. Obama Will Win" says that voters from seven states will determine the results of the U.S. presidential election; p 8 (809 words).
8. Eduard Limonov report "Will He Take Revenge?" looks at former Menatep head Platon Lebedev, who is to be released from prison soon; p 10 (700 words.)
1. Vladislav Kulikov article headlined "Try to Deceive Me" says that separate articles on fraud committed by officials are to be added to the Criminal Code; pp 1, 9 (874 words).
2. Yelena Kukol and Roman Markelov article headlined "Shopping Without Translation" says the Communications Ministry does not plan to impose tough regulations on buying goods in foreign Internet-based shops; pp 1, 5 (1,123 words).
3. Leonid Radzikhovsky article headlined "Outburst" analyzes the role of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 in the Russian and global history; p 3 (797 words).
4. Konstantin Novikov article headlined "Where is Russian March Heading" says that the nationalist march in Moscow on Nov. 4 had three times fewer participants than initially expected; p 4 (494 words).
5. Yekaterina Ogorodnik report "Look at Digit" says that the 16th congress of the National Association of TV and Radio Broadcasters opens in Moscow today; p 5 (350 words).
6. Viktor Feshchenko article headlined "To See Tahrir" comments on Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's visit to Egypt; p 8 (440 words).
7. Nikolai Dolgopolov article headlined "Lord of 5 Rings" recalls a scandal over bribery of the International Olympic Committee officials by Mitt Romney's team when he headed the U.S. committee to hold the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City; p 8 (569 words).
8. Alexander Gasyuk article headlined "Vote, Otherwise They Will Win" says Russian-speaking Americans plan to support Barack Obama in the U.S. presidential election; p 8 (575 words).
9. Yelena Yakovleva interview with head of the external relations department at the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Ilarion of Volokolamsk; p 12 (1,900 words).
1. Vasily Mironov article headlined "Drought and Retail Networks Make Prices Rise" looks at the cause of a hike in bread prices in Russia; pp 1-2 (488 words).
2. Melor Sturua article headlined "With the Shield or on the Shield" analyzes the chances of Barack Obama or Mitt Romney winning the U.S. presidential election; pp 1-2 (1,079 words).
3. Anastasia Rodionova article headlined "March of Lonely Ones" notes the absence of unity among groups taking part in nationalist marches on National Unity Day on Nov. 4; pp 1-2 (709 words).
4. Igor Subbotin article headlined "Assad's Enemies Create Single Front" reports on the Syrian opposition forum held in Qatar; p 2 (427 words).
5. Vladislav Inozemtsev article headlined "National Unity Cracks at Seams" criticizes the Russian government's policy using nationalism as the main idea to unite people; pp 1, 3 (988 words).
6. Igor Subbotin report "Who Shadows CIA" says that British rights activists have told the newspaper about Western secret prisons; p 3 (600 words).
7. Yulia Ruzmanova and Pavel Chuvilyayev article headlined "Donkeys' vs. 'Elephants'" says Russia is likely to benefit from Mitt Romney's victory in the U.S. presidential election as the war with Iran, which he may launch, will result in growing oil prices; p 5 (1,181 words).
8. Lev Kolodny interview with former Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov speaking on architectural projects implemented in Moscow while he was mayor; p 7 (2,693 words).
1. Ivan Petrov article headlined "Operation Press" says Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev has instructed his deputies to begin their daily work with monitoring the Russian press looking for articles covering the police's work. The measure is seen to improve the image of the police; pp 1, 3 (450 words).
2. Valeria Khamrayeva article headlined "Ultra-Right Cause" says the Right Cause party, designed as a liberal one, will be transformed into a rightist project; p 2 (600 words).
3. Vladimir Pavlov article headlined "Chance for Romney" says Barack Obama is said to have lost his advantage over his rival Mitt Romney, who now has equal chances of winning the presidential election; p 5 (500 words).
4. Alexander Litoi article headlined "'Russian March' Without Navalny" says that the Russian March, which took place in Moscow on Nov. 4, has differed from all recently held opposition rallies and showed mistrust of the nationalist movement in its leaders; p 2 (400 words).
5. Anton Olshannikov article headlined "Shmatko Taken Down a Peg" says that the Prosecutor General's Office has found financial violations in the Energy Ministry and now its former head Sergei Shmatko has minimal chances of being appointed as the head of a new joint energy company; p 6 (550 words).
1. Anastasia Maltseva article headlined "Complaints Reach Kremlin" says that more than 5,000 requests to ban potentially dangerous websites have been received by Roskomnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision in Telecommunications, Information Technology and Mass Communications) after the amendments to the law on child protection from harmful information came into force, and only 10 of the websites were included in the blacklist; pp 1, 5 (500 words).
2. Vera Moslakova article headlined "Playing in Nerves" says that the Russian authorities are investigating the activities of the Left Front movement headed by the opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov with an aim to shut it down; p 2 (500 words).
3. Andrei Karev interview with Tatyana Moskalkova, a deputy chairperson of a State Duma committee; p 3 (600 words).
1. Pavel Filippov article headlined "Obama and Romney to Be Judged by 'Photo Finish'" outlines the prospects of the presidential election in the United States and says that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have almost equal chances of winning it; p 3 (800 words).
2. Vladimir Vorsobin article headlined "'Russian March' Is Meaningless, But Not Merciless" comments on the nationalist rally held in Moscow on Nov. 4; p 5 (500 words).
3. Alexander Grishin article headlined "Broke Away From 'Reservation'" says that the Russian March has turned into a routine annual event; p 5 (600 words).
November 6, 2012
RUSSIAN MARCH WITHOUT NAVALNY
THE RUSSIAN MARCH: AVERAGE PARTICIPANTS CLEARLY DISTRUST THEIR LEADERS
Author: Alexander Litoi
[Russian Marches took place across the country.]
Participants in the Russian March in Moscow on November 4
abstained from condemning or praising the Kremlin and Vladimir
Putin. This mass action clearly differed from other events staged
by the opposition. Moreover, it demonstrated average participants'
undeniable distrust of their leaders.
As nearly always, the Russian March event was permitted in
most Russian cities including Moscow and prohibited in
St.Petersburg and Rostov-on-Don. In Moscow, Senator Ruslan
Gattarov announced that the Russian March ought to be permitted in
the outskirts and not in the center. Some Public House members
appealed to law enforcement agencies to run a check on Russian
March organizers. This was all to the attempts and efforts to
somehow restrict the event in Moscow.
Neither did the turnout on November 4 differ greatly from the
Russian March events organized in previous years. Participants
themselves estimated attendance at between 15,000 and 20,000.
Independent observers put it at between 5,000 and 8,000. Abstract
slogans about the Russians dominated. Vera Alperovich, an expert
with Center Sova, called the Russian March this year "markedly
Alla Gorbunova, organizer of the post-Russian March rally,
seemed fairly pleased with the event all the same.
Russian March opponents were left with equivocal impression.
Sergei Zhavoronkov, one of the Democratic Choice leaders who was
present as an observer, said that nationalists were toying with
nationalist ideas these days. "That's because the regime in
general that we have in Russia does not tolerate nationalist
slogans," said Zhavoronkov.
A group of pro-Putin nationalist participated in this Russian
March (people associated with web site Modus Agendi). The recently
revived Motherland chose to ignore the event. The radicals and
extremists were led by Maxim Martsinkevich also known as Hatchet,
a man presented by some federal TV channel as a fighter with
Alexei Navalny was expected at the Russian March but he never
turned up. Gorbunova attributed it mundane cold. Navalny's Press
Secretary Alla Veduta declined all comments. Alexei Gaskarov of
the Coordinating Council offered another explanation. "Sure, there
are some nationalists sitting on the Coordinating Council," he
said. "And yet, there is a tacit agreement to avoid ultra-right
November 6, 2012
May 6 Detainees Face Dangerous Waiting Game
By Jonathan Earle and Yekaterina Kravtsova
Six months have passed since bloody clashes between protesters and riot police at an opposition rally on the eve of President Vladimir Putin's inauguration appeared to mark the end of the street protest movement's halcyon days.
Subsequent months saw laws on public speech and assembly tightened and criminal investigations opened against two opposition leaders, while another was ousted from the State Duma.
But perhaps nothing has symbolized the Kremlin's newfound intolerance for critics better than the plodding prosecution of 19 people suspected of participating in violence at the May rally.
It's anyone's guess when the 16 suspects awaiting trial two others have had preliminary hearings, and one is still at large will go before a judge. Estimates range from next week to next year.
The pace of the investigation has raised concerns about the effect that extended pretrial detention is having on suspects' health and fueled suspicion that investigators are writing history rather than uncovering it.
"Investigators will use this time to make something up," Tatyana Barabanova, mother of suspect Andrei Barabanov, 22, said by telephone Monday.
Barabanov's lawyer, Svetlana Sidorkina, said that she expected the investigation into her client to wrap up in the next two or three weeks but that the case wouldn't go to court until next year because it would take several months for lawyers to examine the estimated 18,000 pages of court documents.
Other theories about the sluggish tempo abound. Lawyer Vasily Kushnir said investigators are eager to produce evidence of a grand conspiracy involving financiers, organizers and activists.
"It's my understanding that they're trying to implicate Leonid Razvozzhayev and Konstantin Lebedev as organizers and tie them all together 'here are the organizers; here are the agents,'" said Kushnir, whose client, Stepan Zimin, was detained in early June.
Razvozzhayev and Lebedev, leaders of the Left Front movement, are under investigation for allegedly planning riots to be financed by a Georgian politician, allegations that appeared in "Anatomy of a Protest 2," a documentary-style film shown on state-controlled television last month.
Investigators successfully argued that Zimin was likely to go into hiding and could influence victims and witnesses, and his detention was extended to March 6. Suspects can legally be held in pretrial detention for up to a year.
"In any country, attacking a law enforcement officer is a serious offense. This is why their detention has been relatively harsh," said Alexei Mukhin, an analyst for the Center for Political Information. "Political prisoners are imprisoned for their ideas, not for their actions."
Reports of death and suffering in pretrial detention in recent years have cast a pall over the system, and some May 6 suspects appeared to be faring better than others.
Barabanov's conditions in pretrial detention are mostly satisfactory, Sidorkina said. He subsists on a diet of mostly oatmeal his petition to be served only vegetarian food has not yet been approved and he's allowed to meet with relatives once per month, she said, adding that "he doesn't feel alone."
But suspect Vladimir Akimenkov, 25, suffers from a severe eye disease and began to lose his vision in pretrial detention. By September, he was nearly blind, according to a brief profile on the website of the May 6 Committee, which organizes rallies and donations on the suspects' behalf.
"The hospital doesn't treat him," May 6 Committee activist Alexander Ivanov said by phone Monday. "Members of the Public Monitoring Commission said after a recent visit that the window in his room was broken and that he can't use his money account to buy food or anything else. They also said deliveries don't reach him."
Akimenkov, Barabanov and others recently had their detention extended to March 6. Supporters have staged several rallies in Moscow and other cities.
Last week, about 800 protesters on New Pushkin Square in Moscow adopted a resolution that called for the release of "all the wrongfully imprisoned" and people in pretrial detention as well as for the resignation of Investigative Committee chief Alexander Bastrykin.
Further protests are scheduled for December, and a fundraising drive to support the suspects is ongoing, Ivanov said.
"I don't know how I could go through this if the May 6 Committee weren't helping me," said Ksenia Kosenko, sister of suspect Mikhail Kosenko. "They gave Mikhail one of his lawyers as well as material and moral support."
Investigators have chosen to first try Kosenko and Maxim Luzyanin, who has confessed, to establish facts that can be used in later cases, said Vadim Kobzev, a former investigator and now a lawyer, whose clients include Alexei Navalny.
About 400 people were detained during and immediately following the May 6 melee. Rally organizers say police provoked a confrontation by creating a bottleneck, and some have speculated that the violence originated with hired provocateurs.
Several opposition leaders, including Sergei Udaltsov and Navalny, were repeatedly questioned and saw their apartments and offices searched as part of the investigation.
Commentator Views Russian Opposition Coordinating Council Role
November 1, 2012
Article by Stanislav Belkovskiy: "Saving Chairman Navalnyy"
In the 10 days since the definitive elections to the opposition's Coordinating Council (KSO), several of my acquaintances from the ranks of the so-called leftists and nationalists (I am not revealing their names in any circumstances in the interests of the investigation) have already talked to me. They have complained about the result of the elections, saying something is wrong, they were squeezed out and ousted, and in general what could have happened was an everyday case of the Churovs (REFERENCE to Central Electoral Commission Chairman Churov) through the excessively correct operation of the "Democracy-2" electronic system, that is the manipulation of the votes of fictitious voters -- provocateurs from the ranks of the MMM guys (the legendary (Ponzi scheme fraudster) Sergey Mavrodi's core group).
Plus the classic Eduard Limonov yet again attacked the KSO and its informal leader Aleksey Navalnyy personally. Indeed, I have quite often heard Limonov's basic arguments from the mouths of various people: Navalnyy has no strategy, the KSO is trusting to luck, and even if a million people come out onto the streets that will not lead to the fall of the bloody regime, which will simply blink and roll over onto its other side.
And so during the recent Halloween I had a distinct desire to defend the Council against all such criticism. I personally have nothing to do with the KSO (only as a simple voter who voted for five people, of whom two got in), so I ask that everything that follows be seen solely as my personal opinion -- the result of observation from the outside (not to be confused with external observation) and a close inspection of the fabric of what is happening.
Critics of the KSO, including even the great Limonov, in my view are making something of a mistake in their assessment of the nature of the Council as a political phenomenon and player. The aim of the new opposition body, it seems to me, is not revolution of any kind. It is simply such a fine word that the tongue reaches out (or twists, depending on the individual) to utter it yet again. "To you, who have been booed and ridiculed by the batteries, to you, ulcerated by the backbiting of bayonets, I triumphantly bring, above the abuse, the triumphant 'O!' of an ode roared out" (copyright) (quotation from Mayakovskiy's "Ode To Revolution").
The aim is to compel the Kremlin [Putin] to reforms. The mechanism for achieving the aim is the negotiating process, for which a united opposition component is needed. Representing mainly the Russian Educated City-Dwellers, and not, let us say, the old Stalinists. No, I do not have in mind ordinary negotiations about the materialization of spirits and the issue of rewards. I hope this is indeed about reforms. Which reforms in particular we will mention a little further down.
But such negotiations can be conducted only by people at least theoretically acceptable to the Kremlin. These are not left-wing radicals and not nationalists. They are sweet-smelling people who do not differ too dramatically from the "respectable section" of Putin's team in terms of their views and will not be realists, that is will not demand the impossible of a tired pseudo-tyrant. The kind of people in principle he can shake hands with and kiss on the cheek. Who will not shout like madmen at the first opportunity that moves them: "Putin's gang must be put on trial!" It is people like that who dominate in the newly elected Council, especially the Top 15 of its all-citizens list. The people who should have gotten in, got in. Need we be surprised that Sergey Udaltsov, after all the blood-crazed advertising he got from the Kremlin, came only 20th?
The Council's executive secretaries elected at its first session are also respectable people. There is the entrepreneur, former Presidential Staff and Federal Tax Service functionary and former member of the political council of the Right Cause party (remember that?) Dmitriy Nekrasov. He is a lso leader of the Moscow Oblast branch of the Committee of Civic Initiatives named for Aleksey Kudrin. And another entirely systemic and successful businessman, Aleksandr Vinokurov, an investor in the Dozhd TV channel and the Slon portal, on which you are currently reading this text. Finally, former world champion Garri Kasparov rises like an isolated cliff above the sea of protest. In case anyone has forgotten, on 8 March 2012 on Dozhd, Stanislav Govorukhin, the leader of Putin's election staff, directly named Kasparov as the only oppositionist with whom one could talk. Just in case, here is a link to the champion's own website. The most dangerous figure for the Kremlin from the KSO leadership is hit parade absolute leader Navalnyy. Rumor has it that Putin does not like him at all and so far does not want to receive him (in any sense of the word). But it could all still change. If someone gives the president a persuasive account of my "three dragons" concept, which I discussed with you recently (see CEP20120914049003).
Another mistake which many leftists/nationalists often make is an incorrect assessment of the meaning of the "Marches of Millions." You may think the marches are needed to seize some particularly important state establishments by force and to take hostage an industrial consignment (play on Russian word "partiya," which means both party and consignment) of rogues and thieves. I see it differently. Nothing has to be seized. The marches are a mechanism for putting psychological pressure on Putin. Using his fears, complexes, phobias, and other frustrations. Our president does not trust his own people and is afraid of them gathering in large numbers in specific places. Moreover, Colonel Al-Qadhafi's ashes are knocking at his heart. And in general he is fed up with everything.
So the point of the marches with many thousands of participants is:
-- to show the mobilization potential of the opposition in general;
-- to demonstrate that only the KSO can implement this potential;
-- and, well, thus to complete the first stage of this notorious coercion.
If and when, as Anatoliy Chubays predicts, 500,000 disgruntled city dwellers go out onto the street, a Council delegation (consisting of, for instance, two executive secretaries, Garri Kasparov and Kseniya Sobchak, and the guardian in the shape of Aleksey Kudrin who has been attached to them) will be able to set off for, let us say, the Buryat wildlife reservation, where Vladimir Putin, in the company of Shanghai leopards and Mexican jerboas, is pensively spending his days working for the state. And say something like this to him:
"Esteemed Vladimir Putin, do you understand now that the reforms cannot be delayed?"
And unless a bad-tempered Mexican jerboa bites the president's finger at that moment, he will reply, sighing mournfully and turning his gaze toward Lake Baykal:
"Yes, I understand."
After that it is a question of what all of us rank and file participants in Bolotnaya Square and Sakharov Avenue and in former and future marches understand by reforms. If it means replacing a bad Putin with a good one -- that is one thing. If it means the radical transformation of the political system in the direction of a parliamentary republic -- that is another. Are early State Duma elections essential or not? And so forth.
Navalnyy is also often rebuked for having no program and for often avoiding fundamental questions during the election debates on Dozhd.
But that is the only way it can be right now. Because it is only by being above the ideological fray that he can preserve his exclusive role as the opposition's moderator. If he goes into any program detail -- immediately some section of the KSO will rebel and move away and the legitimacy of the entire venture will decline. The lack of a program is also a fine program. Like the chervonets, Navalnyy must be agreeable to everyone, and it seems to m e that he is achieving this. You many not approve that line of conduct, but the KSO's informal chairman is pursuing it entirely consistently, which in our time is worth quite a lot in itself. Although Aleksey Navalnyy remains right now the Council's key problem too. To be more precise, not he himself, but his immediate fate. The investigation, like an old mole, is continuing to dig tirelessly. The likelihood of a dramatic turn of events is far from zero. So the correct systemic people who will travel to the Buryat reservation at some time should try right now to persuade Putin not to stop them putting Navalnyy in prison or at the very least to ensure that he be given only a suspended sentence. Before it is too late.
P.S. I also wish freedom for Leonid Razvozzhayev. And as soon as possible.
Commentator Decries Opposition's Presentation on State TV
October 31, 2012
Article by Slava Taroshchina: "Why Does Lenin Need Plastic Surgery? Black and White Color Scheme Is The Season's Trend"
So finally, following Reznik, Narusova (mother of oppositionist Kseniya Sobchak, Lyudmila Narusova was recently removed from the post of Federation Council member for Bryansk Oblast) has decided to open up her heart on NTV. Ilya Rakhmielevich (Reznik, a singer), deep in confession mode, fearlessly cleared the air with (singer Alla) Pugacheva. Lyudmila Borisovna, just as deeply in confession mode, just as fearlessly did not clear the air with Putin. She is convinced even now that the family's long-standing friend is "an irreproachably reliable and decent man." Each successive phrase from the duplicitous ex-senator refuted the previous one. Removed from big-league politics, she was so eager to shift the blame from her "friend" to his entourage that the clear voice of the first straight-A student (otlichnitsa; reference to All-Russia People's Front "Otlichnitsy" movement, which she supported) quivered with falseness. It was tedious and sad.
I have noticed recently that I look at television in a different way. Probably it was with the same unpleasant sensation of a chill down the spine that people in the thirties would read the Pravda newspaper's set-piece articles. Set-piece programs are a reality of TV today. They send signals into space, and space sifts them out. Those who assure the regime of their constant love, like Narusova, are graciously pardoned by being given access to confession. Others, who do not give such an assurance, have criminal charges brought against them (the Udaltsov case). Charges are trumped up against other still, those who annoy the regime. Heaven knows the singer Baskov is politically clean, but his main virtual prosecutor -- NTV -- charges him with virtual links to Navalnyy... It is tedious and sad.
The changes on TV, which has become black and white again, demand the same kind of black and white thinking from all those who come into contact with it in one way or another. Alas, I do come into contact with it, and that fact depresses me. The only result of the country's spiritual development over recent decades -- the wealth of meaning and tone -- is melting before our eyes. The melting process is proceeding in parallel with the process of the structuring of the opposition. Bolshevik directness is again required in the shape of the "yes or no?" format. Even if you are not on Facebook or Twitter, they are in you. I cannot stand collective farms, either real or on the Internet, but there are always friends who report the fateful opinions of the collective politburo. If you are angry at the authorities' idiocy, that means you are for Navalnyy. There is no third way.
The headlong return to black and white thinking is frightening. I have almost no questions for the people in power and their servant. No one can surprise me any more, not even Pimanov who, as part of the "Man and Law" program, broadcast a clip with a naked pedophile in the bath house. Several people in the frame put a very sharp question to the 26-year-old pedophile: "Which opposition politician do you support?" "Ryzhkov," the puny child molester responds promptly. "And I also like Navalnyy." It is all clear as far as Pimanov is concerned, but, conversely, it is all unclear as regards Udaltsov, Ponomarev, and Razvozzhayev.
There is an increasing whiff of Nechayevism (REFERENCE to Russian revolutionary and nihilist Sergey Nechayev). Whereas a year ago, in romantic December, it was still possible to ignore certain of Udaltsov's features, today our electoral vision makes us uneasy. At the time the liberal public ,who had not forgiven Limonov the slogan "Stalin, Beriya, GULAG!", readily forgave the left-wing leader his fierce Stalinism -- for the sake of higher protest-driven expediency. Now they pretend not to see or hear the echoes of Sergey Nechayev in Sergey Udaltsov's words and deeds. Givi Targamadze (Georgian politician alleged in NTV film "Anatomy of Protest-2" t o have met with Udaltsov and Razvozzhayev to plot Putin's removal) is of course least of all like Ogarev and Bakunin, to whom Nechayev traveled all the way to Switzerland for material support, but the (possibly imprecise) similarities are impressive. They are even more impressive in the story of Razvozzhayev. I am not talking now about his abduction and arrest (everything is obscure here) but about his sadistic predilections. In his article long ago in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the professional revolutionary describes how he would torture cats when he was a youth. The refined torture of cats was Nechayev's favorite pastime when he was a barefoot child.
The context changes daily. A black and white color scheme is definitely not appropriate for such a changeable substance. In the past the excessive mutual attraction between television and Deputy (Irina) Yarova could have been perceived through the prism of irony. Today, with her entire sorry countenance, the head of the State Duma Committee for security is the material embodiment of the inevitability of punishment. The other heroes of the small screen -- from Markin to Putin -- are the embodiment of the same thing. Trials in the "Bolotnaya case" have begun. For several days now we have been seeing the 23-year-old half-blind Vladimir Akimenkov at the Basmannyy Court session. "I do not understand, your honor," he said, "for whom and why in our country I have to go completely blind." It is not only Judge Skuridina (she responded predictably, extending his term of detention through 6 March) who will have to answer this question, but also the Coordinating Council and all of us.
The Coordinating Council is a thorn in the side of state TV. Its best forces are put into the struggle against the Council. However, this struggle relates to the sphere of medicine rather than ideology. On each occasion (news anchor) Dmitriy Kiselev becomes so filled with hatred and his neck becomes so purple in its tight collar, that you start to fear for him. To fight the main enemy, a new double act entitled "The Vasserman Reaction" has been launched on the air (once again with medical connotations (REFERENCE to title's pun on the Wassermann reaction, a test for syphilis)). It is anchored by Anatoliy Vasserman, with his reaction, and Yegor Kholmogorov. As Andrey Loshak aptly remarked, the former does not have a reflection in the mirror (supposedly an attribute of vampires). The latter, overcoming unbearable pain, pronounces with particular care, like one passing sentence, the names of the Coordinating Council members -- Shats, Kats, Gelfand. When Stalinist talks to nationalist about liberals, you get the Vasserman reaction, with whose aid nowadays they do not even diagnose syphilis.
The next step (if we are dealing in a black and white style) should be to expose the repressive mechanism of the regime operating with such unseemly methods. I should, but I do not want to. I want more clarity with the opposition as a whole and with the Coordinating Council in particular. Only the quick-witted Kseniya Sobchak can form a civil platform in the breaks between corporate extravaganzas. The other sympathizers with the protest movement should have explained to them long and thoughtfully the aims, tasks, means, and methods -- or else they will not understand: There is too much sorry historical amnesia in our society.
"Should Lenin be given plastic surgery?" the Vasserman-Kholmogorov program asks. It is amusing that the manipulators themselves should be concerned with an experiment to manipulate public opinion. But it is not about them, but about a question. A topical question. He should be given surgery, he certainly should. And Vladimir Ilich (Lenin) will lie in his mausoleum as handsome as the sun itself: With Galkin's curls, Urgant's lips, Zverev's nose (references to well-known TV performers), and a suit by (fashion designer) Yudashkin. That is the only way we can alter the season's trend and move away from black and white to what is bright and colorful.
Chubays Said Mouthpiece for 'Liberal Camp' Sending Warning to Regime
October 31, 2012
Article by Kirill Benediktov: "The Switchman. Political Scientist Kirill Benediktov on Why Anatoliy Chubays Does Not Fear A Revolution"
In the large media area nothing happens just like that.
The interview given by Anatoliy Chubays, head of Rosnano (the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies), to Itogi magazine is, at first sight, dedicated to the achievements of the company itself, of which, as can be understood from the text of the interview, there are so far not many. Rosnano has existed for five years; Chubays has headed it since September 2008. You would think that in this time the scientific and administrative monster that inhabits the luxurious building on Prospekt Shestidesyatiletiya Oktyabrya had been able to give birth to as many new technologies as would suffice for more than one country. But where are they, these technologies? Chubays cites as an example a board with a nanocomposite coating that supports the weight of three grown men -- incidentally, he has already demonstrated this board live on television. Impressive, unless you recall that such coatings were made in our country as many as 20 years ago by the firm Elan-praktik. And things really did turn out shabbily for the company's other widely advertised project -- the "nano-textbook." In August last year Chubays demonstrated to the then Russian Federation Prime Minister Vladimir Putin an innovative tablet computer that it was planned to introduce in schools. Made on the basis of polymers, without glass or silicon, the "nano-textbook" was flexible, light, and safe. It was planned to build a plant in Zelenograd especially for the project; but it soon became apparent that even the design is not Russian, but Western (in January 2011 Rosnano invested $700 million in the American company Plastic Logic, which created the "nano-textbook"), and that it would cost far more money than stated initially. Anyway, schoolchildren never did see the tablet computer shown to Putin, and Rosnano confirmed the justice of the well-known expression about the fate of all polymers.
So that if you assume that Chubays wanted to report on the work that he has done in the post of head of Rosnano, he gave the interview to Itogi in vain.
However, this is precisely a case when it is not very interesting to read about money. To the reader, in general, it makes no difference how many billions of budget money yet another office has spent -- he knows already that in all these corporations people thieve on a massive scale. The interesting part begins when Chubays begins to talk about the political processes taking place in the country.
"Bolotnaya Ploshchad and everything connected with it is categorically not a one-off phenomenon, but the manifestation of the deep-seated social shifts that are happening in the country... The process has begun, and it cannot be stopped. The fact that on the last occasion, not 100,000, but 30,000 people came to the march does not suggest attenuation. That is bullshit! There will be another 10 rallies to which 3,000 people will come, and then all of a sudden, half a million people will gather. I am 100% certain of this! This train will not go back again."
Here the correctly chosen moment for the retort is important -- not only what was said, but when. A report by the Center for Strategic Developments containing three scenarios for the country's political development that the Kremlin, through the president's press secretary, has described as "apocalyptic" has just been published. By describing one of these scenarios extremely laconically, Chubays is literally pouring salt on wounds that are still fresh.
The people are demonstrating their attitude to the authorities, chanting "The governor is a jerk!" in a St Petersburg stadium and showing "all kinds of fingers" to the prime minister's motorcade; the expertocracy observes that the masses are increasingly being penetrated by the idea of revolution; and now this Chubays too. Is this not too much for one 10-day period in October?
Let us read further. "Despite the tough line increasingly obviously demonstrated by the authorities...the possibilities of evolut ionary development have not yet been exhausted... Only very crude mistakes by the authorities are capable of leading to harsh confrontation and to a global political catastrophe in Russia."
That means, on the one hand, mass protest actions (half a million!) are inevitable, but, on the other, a catastrophe can be avoided. It seems that a badge has been pinned to Anatoliy Borisovich's jacket of the kind worn in the nineties by sellers of Herbalife: "Lose weight now -- ask me how."
However, there is no answer in the text. There is only a hint -- a mention of former Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin, who paid for defending a tough budget with his job. But for those to whom the interview was really addressed, this is sufficient.
The liberals who live on the upper floors of the Russian state building are winking to their colleagues from Bolotnaya Ploshchad: Hey, you down there, don't be sad, we are with you! And they are warning the authorities: You think that these white-ribbon wearers who gather for their tiny Marches of Millions and dabble in laughable internet elections are not dangerous? Not yet, they aren't. But soon hundreds of thousands of angry representatives of the middle class will take to the streets, and then... And what then, in point of fact?
Proceeding on the basis of simple logic, Chubays should be more afraid of a revolution than anyone else. Because a genuinely massive protest in Russia can only be left-wing, and for the leftists, the father of "grab-it-ization" is their mortal class enemy. If the leftists come to power, they will remind Chubays of vouchers, shares-for-loans auctions, and the polymer nano-tablet.
But Chubays is obviously not afraid of this. Moreover, he talks of future upheavals as of something perfectly natural. "This train will not go back again."
The impression arises that the liberal camp has decided to make public through the lips of one of their most prominent representatives, if not an ultimatum, at any rate, a serious business proposal. If you want to avoid great upheavals -- listen to us. We are capable of switching the tracks and not letting the train now gathering pace go down the dangerous rut of left-wing protest, and even worse, down the frightening nationalistic path. We can release it along the route of the liberalization of internal and external policy outlined under Medvedev. And then no revolution will occur.
I do not know whether the conspiracy theorists who believe that behind the protest movement of 2011-2012 stand powerful clans closely connected with Yeltsin's "family," and that the leaders of the opposition are nothing more than puppets in "cunning and work-worn hands," are right. But the fact that the front men of these clans are not adverse to using the protest energy of the street to frighten the authorities and derive a certain advantage from their fear is perfectly obvious.
November 6, 2012
THE RIGHT CAUSE PARTY IS TO BECOME A NATIONALIST-PATRIOTIC POLITICAL PROJECT
Author: Valeria Khamrayeva
[Right Cause is about to adopt a new ideology.]
Determined to launch rebranding, the Right Cause party is clearly
trying to expand electoral support. Addressing the party
convention last Saturday, Right Cause leader Andrei Dunayev
suggested abandonment of the liberal idea in favor of nationalist-
patriotic ones. Political scientist calls it all a waste of time.
They say that no changes will help this political project.
Speaking at the convention, Dunayev admitted that Right Cause
had lost the war for votes. He said that what members the party
still retained had to rearrange the party and its ideology
completely. "It's time to abandon the term "liberal" and become a
truly rightist party. Even a nationalist-patriotic party," he
said. "I reckon that this is the only way for Right Cause to
survive as a political party."
"Delegates disagree on lots of things, but we all agree that
becoming the ruling party is our objective," said Dunayev. Asked
about potential allies, he said that consolidation with other
political forces seemed to be the only way out for the Right Cause
party. Discounting the new ideology soon to be adopted, Dunayev
himself promoted an alliance with "any democratic force" that
nominated its candidate.
Dunayev said, "Right Cause will support United Russia's
candidates but sporadically and infrequently. In any event, we are
going to support no CPRF's candidates. We see that most of them in
Russian regions are associated with the underworld."
Dunayev said that the party convention was going to be
finished in a month or so, approximately on December 15. Its
delegates have this much time to elect party leadership, choose
ideology of the party, and outline its tasks and objectives. Party
leader added that the Right Cause party had but six months in
which to formulate its programme and ideology. "Six months is how
long the party can survive without all of that," he said.
No political scientist this newspaper approached for comments
said that these or any other changes were going to help Right
Cause. "Right Cause is a political zombie... and there is nothing
anyone can do to change that," said Mikhail Vinogradov of the
St.Petersburg Politics Foundation. "All of that is but an attempt
to remind society about Right Cause's existence."
"The Right Cause party has always been a project launched by
the Kremlin... and this is what it is now," said Boris Makarenko
of the Political Techniques Center. "And a party such as this
cannot afford the term "liberal" in its name... because liberalism
is a taboo word at the Kremlin, these days... No new ideologies
are going to help Right Cause."
Director of the International Institute of Political
Expertise Yevgeny Minchenko said, "Curators of the Right Cause
party within the corridors of power may choose for it any ideology
at all because this party lacks electorate as such. Some
businessmen might try to use this political party as a platform
but even they may only succeed in Russian regions. There is no
chance for this party on the federal level."
November 6, 2012
THE POLICE...who are they working for?
Experts analyzed performance of law enforcement agencies. Their conclusions turned out to be less then uplifting
SUCCESSFUL REORGANIZATION OF THE POLICE FORCE REQUIRES REARRANGEMENT OF THE WHOLE SYSTEM OF LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES
Launched in 2010, the police reforms have failed to produce
the desired results. The Interior Ministry announced earlier this
year that it was going to launch a new phase of the reforms.
Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev had a special working group
established, one that was expected to draw plans of the future
reforms. Kolokoltsev said in an interview a week ago that
performance of the police was about to change for the better - on
account of better pay, stricter discipline, and reduction of
Experts of the Institute of law Enforcement at the European
University in St.Petersburg studied performance of all Russian law
enforcement agencies and their inner workings. The conclusions
they drew applied to all law enforcement agencies - the police,
prosecutor's office, Investigative Committee, drug enforcement
agency, and courts. Experts discovered that all these structures
were affected by extreme centralization and absence of backlinks,
emphasis on quantity rather than quality (in terms of results),
excessive paperwork, and other suchlike problems.
Police reforms in other post-Soviet countries thoroughly
studied, experts said that decentralization of the police was
probably one of the most important and complicated tasks at hand,
one that required considerable investments as well as
administrative and budget changes. Radical personnel solutions
work only when couple with changes in the system of personnel
selection and training, said experts.
Experts pointed out that the desire to control the police
without society was typical of all post-Soviet states. "It is the
bane of all law enforcement systems."
It was also announced that the fear of transparency was
another major problem.
Russian radio holds debate on amendments to law on treason
Ekho Moskvy Radio
November 1, 2012 (?)
On 31 October the Russian upper house, the Federation Council, passed amendments to the law on treason and divulging state secrets. The lower house, the State Duma, had already passed the bill in September.
Respected human rights activists in Russia have expressed strong opposition to the law and the Yabloko liberal opposition party has staged one-man pickets outside the Federation Council.
To become law, the amendments now have to be signed by the Russian president.
Andrey Lugovoy, deputy chairman of the State Duma Security Committee and an FSB colonel of the reserve, Aleksey Simonov, head of the Glasnost Protection Foundation and a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, and Yevgeniy Pasko, a military journalist who in 2001 was convicted of treason, for which he received a four-year prison sentence, took part in a debate on the new law on the "V Kruge Sveta" slot on editorially independent Ekho Moskvy radio. The debate was moderated by Yuriy Kobaladze, himself a former KGB officer.
Lugovoy defended the proposed changes while Simonov and Pasko strongly criticized them.
Lugovoy defends new law
According to Lugovoy, the amendments are long overdue and fully justified.
There are "only four" articles in the Criminal Code that protect Russia's state security - articles 275, 276, 283 and 284, he said. Only in the past 20 years Russia has started introducing "more or less decent laws" to fill the "legal vacuum" in the sphere of state security, he explained.
According to Lugovoy, some of the latest amendments are "exclusively of a technical nature dealing with terminology".
In the opinion of Lugovoy, the current openness of Russian society, ushered in with the democratic changes of the early 1990s, poses new challenges to the Russian security services, and, in particular, the activities of foreign special services towards the Russian state and its citizens over the past 10 years have made the amendments necessary.
According to Lugovoy, the new law is a preventative measure against the "orange-pink revolutions", as he put it, which have taken place in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan in recent years.
"These are preventative measures, so that for at least 20, 30 or 50 years we can live without such internal wars or revolutions," he said.
Lugovoy admitted that in the past decade the Russian special services had experienced more failures and treason than ever before in their history.
Lugovoy also said that, if one were to compare Russian and American legislation in this respect, the comparison wouldn't be in the Americans' favour. "Under their legislation, they can definitely put anyone in prison without any scruples," he said.
To that, the moderator observed: "But they don't, and this is the point."
"Our citizens should realize that state security is of paramount importance and a constitutional duty. Therefore everyone, in their work, should think twice about possible consequences (of their actions)," Lugovoy said.
New law gives free reign to FSB - Simonov
In the opinion of Simonov, the amendments had been urged by the Federal Security Service (FSB). Simonov described the FSB as a "lazy organization which has the habit of 'appointing' spies".
The FSB, according to Simonov, "wants to strengthen its rights".
For the FSB, "to strengthen its rights essentially means to be able to accuse people of spying at its choice and as it sees fit, without providing hard evidence of any kind".
To do that, the security services need to expand the legal definition of treason and state secrets, Simonov said.
At the same time, he admitted that he had not understood the details of the new law when he read it because, according to Simonov, "one needs to be a lawyer or to read it very carefully because, in general, it is very difficult - and for a normal person well nigh impossible - to read legal texts".
To that, Lugovoy retorted that, "without getting to the bottom of the proposed changes", human rights campaigners now "bang the drum" against them, claiming that now anyone can be accused of treason and put in prison.
"Nothing of the kind. On the contrary, now it is stated absolutely clearly against whom criminal cases can be launched under these articles," Lugovoy said.
No clear definition of state secret - Pasko
According to Pasko, there is no clear definition of a state secret and different government departments apply different criteria. Very often, he said, an investigation comes across one department saying that the information in question does not constitute a state secret, while a different department says it does.
Pasko lamented the fact that no public hearing had been held on the proposed amendments and that no legal experts had been involved in drafting the new law.
According to Lugovoy, the new law gives a clearer definition of a state secret in particular in the sphere of "topographical maps, geology and the deposits of mineral resources".
To that, Pasko observed ironically that it was strange to talk of topographical maps in the era of satellite navigation systems like the GPS and its Russian equivalent, Glonass.
According to Pasko, many criminal cases have been "fabricated" and many court hearings have resulted in "idiotic" and "unlawful" decisions being taken.
And, according to Simonov, the main problem is that one "cannot rely on independent courts - in other words, on courts' independent judgement" in Russia. The courts in Russia, he said, "are subjected to influence from the authorities and to influence from the sentiments and prejudices existing in society".
Pasko, supported by the presenter, said that, in the first place, Russia needs laws that will give a clear definition of what comprises a state secret, so that it stops being open to interpretation by the courts.
"Let's give the courts a tool that unequivocally states what comprises a state secret and hence a crime" in this sphere, the presenter said. Lugovoy agreed.
Clampdown on human rights activists - presenter
The latest amendments are seen by liberal commentators as a clampdown on human rights activists in Russia.
Presenter Yuriy Kobaladze expressed concern over the fact that in Russia it was rather easy to accuse human rights campaigners who work with international organizations of espionage.
He recalled the so-called "spy rock" incident involving the British embassy in Moscow. According to Kobaladze, the rock in question was indeed a "spy rock" but, at the same time, there was no justification in accusing veteran Russian rights campaigner Lyudmila Alekseyeva of having dealings with British spies. "It is not Alekseyeva's job to expose British spies. She had dealings with an employee of the British embassy," he said.
And Simonov said that he was an easy target because he received foreign grants. "I believe that one can defend freedom of speech in a country in which there is no freedom of speech only with foreign money," he said.
According to the presenter, the new law is also seen as being aimed against the fledgling civil society which is emerging in Russia.
Lugovoy admitted that there was a confrontation between "journalists and civil society, on the one hand, and the security services, on the other". At the same time, he reiterated his position: "I support first toughening (legislation) and softening it later."
According to Lugovoy, attempts to form civil society in Russia have led to a situation resulting in people now "plotting mass disturbances, mutiny, seizure of power by force etc."
Lugovoy was referring to the allegations against Sergey Udaltsov, coordinator of the Left Front radical opposition group, and Left Front activist Leonid Razvozzhayev made in the "Anatomy of Protest 2" film broadcast on the Russian NTV channel.
When other participants in the debate cast doubt on the allegations made in the film, Lugovoy retorted that the allegations should not be dismissed because "in 1917 nobody predicted that a bunch of Bolsheviks led by Lenin could make a coup in the country".
"Revolutions are always made by these types of figures who appear from no-one knows where," Lugovoy said.
From: "William Dunkerley" <email@example.com>
Subject: Vedomosti Misrepresented Survey Results in Recent Article
Date: Mon, 5 Nov 2012
Vedomosti Misrepresented Survey Results in Recent Article
By William Dunkerley
William Dunkerley is a media business analyst and consultant
specializing in Russia and the former Soviet Union.
An October 30, 2012 Vedomosti article titled "No Pathologies
in Anatomy: Russians disbelieve that protesters meant to
topple the regime" (JRL #191) offers survey data to make its
point. But in doing so, the newspaper jiggered the
Vedomosti claimed, "The campaign against the street
opposition failed. The Russians
obstinately refuse to believe that protesters and organizers
of protests meant to topple the regime."
The "campaign" Vedomosti refers to is apparently an NTV
documentary "Anatomy of a protest - 2." The show took aim at
demonstration leaders, portraying them in a negative light.
The newspaper staked its conclusion that the program failed
on the Levada Center finding that only 24 percent of
Russians believe the protest organizers are seeking revolution, which was a premise of the documentary. But that
was a bogus conclusion. Vedomosti presented no statistics to
show what that percentage was before the documentary aired.
Thus there was no showing of change in beliefs, one way or
another. There might have been a lesser percentage of people
before the show. Who knows? And the survey certainly didn't
measure the "obstinateness" that Vedomosti claimed it did.
Vedomosti also trumpeted the Levada finding that 27 percent
of Russians labeled the administration's actions regarding
demonstrations as political repression. What Vedomosti
failed to mention is that this figure represents the
smallest group of respondents to that question. Thirty-nine
percent saw the government acting to restore law and order.
That was the predominant reaction. Another 35 percent found
it hard to decide what was in the administration's mind.
There was no mention of these more significant numbers in
the Vedomosti story. The newspaper presented a misleading
Vedomosti's misuse of the Levada Center survey data raises
the question of what the newspaper was trying to do. Was
this really a journalistic story aimed at informing readers
accurately? Or was the newspaper participating in an
opposition media attack on the administration?
While it seems clear that Vedomosti's rationale for calling
the NTV documentary a failure is illegitimate, I nonetheless
agree the show was a failure -- but for a different reason.
It failed to draw a significant audience. According to the
Levada data, only 3 percent of Russians watched it. That's
not much of a success. What's more, the documentary gave the
opposition a chance to launch its media attack. I think it's
time the Kremlin wised up and took a more sophisticated
approach in handling the multitude of media attacks it
New York Times
November 6, 2012
Ethnic Tension Drives Russian Crackdown on Rubber-Bullet Guns
By ANDREW ROTH
MOSCOW It is rare to hear gunshots on the broad thoroughfare in downtown Moscow that leads to the gates of the Kremlin. But in September, a rowdy wedding party led by a red Ferrari sporting streamers in the colors of Russia's mostly Muslim Dagestan republic jetted toward Red Square, firing celebratory shots in the air and even at passing motorists.
That they were shooting rubber bullets did not seem to put anyone at ease, and the police arrested 15 smartly dressed wedding guests, including the groom. The matter reached as high as Russia's prime minister, Dmitri A. Medvedev, who addressed the case at a meeting last month.
"There are different cultural traditions, but no one has canceled legal norms, so we can say that shooting in the air out of joy is not allowed in Moscow, not in Makhachkala," said Mr. Medvedev, referring to the capital city of Dagestan. The police in New York would have opened fire, he added, and "they would have been justified."
Russian authorities are lavishing attention on cases involving these so-called traumatic weapons handguns that fire rubber bullets at high velocities, known in other parts of the world as "less-lethal" or "compliance weapons" and often used in riot control. With laws on acquiring the guns already strengthened last year, Russia's president, Vladimir V. Putin, demanded last week that the weapons be redesigned so they could not be retrofitted to fire regular bullets.
Behind the focus on these weapons lies anxiety about ethnic frictions. With much of the guns' proliferation now relegated to the black market, there is no easy way to track who is buying them. But an increasingly nationalist society perceives them as spreading primarily among populations of migrants from the former Soviet republics, in particular the North Caucasus and Central Asia groups that have flowed into urban areas seeking work.
In a demonstration of the state of nationalist fervor, a column of several thousand marched near the Kremlin on Sunday, chanting "Russia for Russians!" and "Russian order!" It was the first time the annual "Russian March" had been sanctioned in the city center.
Alexander Kots, a crime reporter for the popular tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, said that the growing focus on migrants made the weapons seem more dangerous.
"The situation isn't necessarily getting worse, but the guns attract attention because they are in the hands of migrants," he said. "It makes people very uncomfortable."
Russian authorities wield tight control over firearms, and researchers with the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey estimate that there is one traditional or less-lethal gun, bought legally or on the black market, for every 11 Russian citizens, about one-tenth the ratio in the United States.
Last year's new regulations on ownership have cut legal sales severely, said Anatoly P. Damaratsky, the general director of the New Weapons Technology Company, which makes the OSA traumatic weapon, a snub-nosed pistol whose name translates as "wasp" and which packs the legally allowed limit of 91 joules of power.
"Of course you can kill somebody with this gun," Mr. Damaratsky said. "But we clearly say not to shoot anyone in the head, and not to fire it at a distance closer than one meter. That already isn't self-defense. It's a crime."
Even in cases when the shooter is not a migrant, they can still draw blame. Aleksandra Lotkova, 20, a telegenic law student and a native Muscovite, is facing prosecution for shooting several attackers from a Streamer traumatic pistol that she pulled from her purse during a brawl in the Moscow subway in May. She said in an interview that she had bought the gun because she was mugged when she was 17 and that she carried it at night because migrant workers were living in her neighborhood on the outskirts of Moscow, housed in barracks near construction sites.
"It's not very calm to walk around here, especially late at night," Ms. Lotkova said. She said she pulled the weapon when she was threatened in the subway late at night.
"The one who caught my attention was a young man," she said. "He stood and waved his knife at me. He was drunk, aggressive and was yelling, 'I'm going to kill you all.' "
Ms. Lotkova's first shot merely knocked the man back, but a second rubber bullet pierced the lung of another attacker, leaving him hospitalized.
The prosecutor's office has brought tough charges, requesting a 10-year sentence for causing grievous bodily harm, her lawyer said on television on Friday. Some news outlets have adopted Ms. Lotkova as a populist hero, demanding that the courts either charge her attackers or declare that she was acting in self-defense.
It was a similar street confrontation and a similar weapon that in 2010 set off the largest nationalist riots Russia had seen in years. In that case, a young man named Yegor Sviridov was fatally shot during a fight with a group of young men from the North Caucasus, prompting an explosive protest on Manezh Square, outside the Kremlin's gates. The authorities scrambled to soothe that anger; Mr. Putin, then prime minister, visited Mr. Sviridov's grave carrying a fat bunch of roses.
Virtually any discussion of guns winds back to the subject of ethnic tension. At a recent meeting of Russian gun owners, who hope to lobby for more liberal laws, the headline speaker, an actor named Ivan I. Okhlobystin, opened with a joke about migrants from Dagestan.
"I'm sorry! I was stuck behind a wedding, they were shooting!" he said to applause and laughter.
Many prestigious Russian colleges acknowledged as ineffective; some may be shut down
By Itar-Tass World Service writer Lyudmila Alexandrova
MOSCOW, November 6 (Itar-Tass) A veritable tempest broke out in Russian higher education, as the Ministry of Education and Science said a considerable portion of state-run colleges was ineffective. Although it is not the final verdict, the Ministry of Education and Science does not deny that some ineffective colleges might be shut down. The staff and students of the "black-marked" colleges are alarmed, as are their future entrants. Many believe that the evaluation criteria were wrong and that the results of the check did not reflect the real situation.
Last week, the Ministry of Education and Science announced that a number of colleges and their branches did not conform to the modern education standards. There are 136 of 541 state-run colleges and 450 of 994 branches on the "black list." The most intriguing is the fact that a majority of the blacklisted colleges are generally regarded as successful and prestigious. There are 20 such institutions in Moscow, and ten in St Petersburg. They include the Russian State University for the Humanities /RGGU/, the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute, the Moscow Architecture Institute /MARKhI/, and the Moscow State Academy of Physical Culture.
According to the Ministry, the worst situation is in the North Caucasus: all the three Chechen colleges, the only college in Ingushetia and four of Dagestan's five colleges have been listed as ineffective.
The Ministry of Education and Science evaluated the performance of the colleges by five parameters: average grade received at the Single State Examination, the number of research papers per staffer, the percentage of graduates from foreign countries, the college's income per staffer and the level of its infrastructure.
For example, a college aspiring to be effective should have at least 11 square meters of college buildings per one student. Research at college should bring at least 95,000 roubles per staffer. The ministry also counted the share of the personnel with senior university degrees /candidates and doctors of sciences/ in permanent staff.
The monitoring of the quality of colleges is part of the program to optimize higher education, announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the summer of 2012. Putin said the country had too many colleges offering inferior quality tuition. The president ordered the Ministry of Education and Science to identity the ineffective state-run colleges by the end of 2012, and work out the program to re-organize higher education.
Minister of Education and Science Dmitry Livanov said it was planned to cut the number of colleges by 20 percent in the next three years, and the number of their branches by 30 percent.
For his part, Deputy Minister of Education and Science Alexander Klimov, quoted by the Rossiiskaya Gazeta, said the Ministry would decide on what it should do with the ineffective colleges in three months.
It is quite possible that the list will become shorter. "We haven't yet announced the results of the check of the colleges," he said, "the signs of ineffectiveness do not imply giving the college an automatic and irrevocable anti-rating. We have no objective to shut down as many colleges as possible. Our objective is to make the maximum number of colleges effective. Shutting down a college is the measure of last resort."
According to Klimov, the working groups set up each region will review the lists of their colleges in the period from November 6 to November 14, and it is quite possible that some might be taken out of the "black list." The founders of the colleges that remain on this list, will work out recommendations. There are many options to resolve the problem, from giving support to merger with another university. The program of actions for ineffective colleges will be developed from December through February. By March, the proposals on further actions will be submitted to the president for making the final decision.
The published list caused a storm of indignation among universities. Some university heads called the principles of evaluation of their performance illegal and unfair. According to president of the Ulyanovsk State University Yuri Polyansky, who is quoted by the Novye Izvestia, you cannot measure all colleges by same standards. For example, the average grade at the Single State examination cannot be the decisive criterion in the evaluation of a humanities college; also, the number of research papers per staffer does not always indicate the weakness of a college.
First pro-rector of the Moscow Automobile and Road Institute Pavel Pospelov agrees with him. He believes that they should "necessarily take into account such factors as the demand for specialists in the labor market, as it is the main indicator of college effectiveness."
The Maxim Gorky Literature Institute was sceptical about the Ministry's conclusions. Pro-rector for tutorials Mikhail Stoyanovsky told Russian New Service that all Russian colleges could be called ineffective became they are not found among the colleges rated by the West.
For his part, honorary RGSU president Vasily Zhukov noted that the list had been composed on the basis of average university grade without taking into account its specialization and line of activity which he believed was not objective. "Evaluating the scope of research only in roubles or points scored at the Single State Examination is simply incorrect. There are professions that are very unattractive for youths, but extremely important for the state," he said.
The Russian students' trade union also disagrees with the college evaluation criteria. It noted in a statement that the rating was composed "solely on the basis of economic, not educational criteria," whereas "the only possible criterion for such evaluation can be the percentage of the graduates who found jobs in their area of expertise."
November 6, 2012
Russia back to 'golden' age in October, while Europe struggles
Russian private businesses continued to grow in October, with new orders in the service sector rising the fastest since the start of the crisis in 2008. This makes the country a bright spot where even Germany Europe's largest economy suffered.
In October the Purchasing Manager Index (PMI) for Russia's service sector rose for the third consecutive month to reach 57.3 on a 100 scale. This marks the strongest growth rate since May 2011. In the survey conducted by HSBC a reading of 50 serves as a dividing line between economic contraction and growth.
New orders for the Russian service sector grew "at a pace not seen since before the global financial crisis in late-2008," the report said. And the industry is quite optimistic about the coming 12 months, with companies saying they expect the economy to grow and their investment plans to realize.
"Russian service providers supported manufacturers in reporting strong improvements in business activity and new orders in October. It looks like we are back to the 'golden' pre-crisis years in this respect, with an extra bonus of lower inflationary pressures in the economy," Aleksandr Morozov, Chief Economist at HSBC for Russia and CIS commented.
Among other countries reporting on their service sector on Tuesday were such economic powerhouses in Europe as Germany and France, as well as struggling Italy and Spain. Private businesses in these countries were suffering in October, with even Germany saying its economy kept on contracting. A report said both the country's manufacturing and services were down in October. "A back-to-back monthly reduction in private sector employment further suggests that the German economy is approaching the year end on a weaker footing, as lower workloads and worsening economic sentiment continue to bite," Tim Moore, an author of the report for Germany said.
In France, the region's number two economy, poor performance of its service sector was also coupled with "a steep fall in manufacturing output." "The pace of contraction in private sector output during the last two months has been the sharpest since the post-Lehmans slump in early 2009," according to Jack Kennedy, who tailored the report for France.
Italy also suffered in October, "under the weight of austerity as well as economic and political uncertainty," the report said. Another debt-ridden country Spain said October didn't show any signs of improvement in the sector, with service providers becoming increasingly pessimistic about 2013. That's because "the crisis persists and austerity measures aimed at reducing the government's budget deficit further sap domestic demand," the report concluded.
November 6, 2012
Public Sector Accounts for Half Russia's Economy
State-owned company funds can be spent on mega-projects with little control, while state influence may continue to grow. The share of state-controlled companies in the Russian economy has substantially increased, say experts.
Yulia Tseplyaeva and Yury Yeltsov of BNP Paribas write, for example, that the state controlled 10% of oil production in 1998-1999 and 40% to 45% now.
The percent in the banking sector has increased to 49% and in transport, to 73%. In 2006, according to Gaidar Institute estimates, the public sector accounted for 38% of the economy, but exceeded 40% in 2008.
The economic crisis accelerated the process: the public sector has risen to 50% of GDP, according to the Ministry of Economic Development, compared with a global average of 30%.
The line between the state's financial resources and those of state-owned companies is becoming fuzzier, experts add. State-controlled companies are, in effect, creating a "parallel budget" for ambitious projects, which seldom if ever match the companies' real businesses.
Gazprom is a major investor in the 2014 Olympic Games, with over 100 billion rubles, and is second to the federal budget. (The federal government is spending 466 billion rubles.) Of that amount only 31.5 billion can be regarded as related to the company's direct business the Dzhubga-Sochi gas pipeline. Gazprom spent 300 billion rubles on the APEC summit, compared with a government expense of 202 billion rubles.
Rosneft, according to BNP Paribas, invests $0.7-1 billion a year in social projects in places where it produces oil.
Sberbank's non-core investments are estimated by BNP Paribas at $1 billion per year.
This kind of "cooperation" between state-owned companies and government acts as a disincentive to privatization, Tseplyaeva believes. The earnings will not surpass the investment by state giants in large government projects. Despite the talk of privatization, she says, the government's share is likely to increase rather than decrease.
In 2013-2014, privatization is expected to bring in 1.24 trillion rubles (about $40 billion), but that is less than Rosneft's deal with TNK-BP (around $60 billion), says Sergei Guriyev, rector of the Russian School of Economics.
This "parallel budget" makes government spending less transparent and increases the potential for manipulation; it's beyond the treasury's eye, Tseplyaeva complains.
Increasing the huge funds and resources of state-controlled companies does not increase happiness, says Russia's former finance minister Alexei Kudrin. "Look at Gazprom," he says. "In the past it was one of the world's top companies for capitalization. Now its capitalization is down by many times. Multinational investment companies are already anticipating a 100 billion ruble loss, and this is a calculated value that reflects the low quality of Gazprom management."
According to Troika Dialog estimates, the state has lost some $80 billion in the value of the shares it owns over the past four years due to the increased risk of investing here. One reason for this is investor awareness of the fact that the state missed chances for reforms at favorable periods of high oil prices.
November 6, 2012
RUSSIAN PRESS REVIEW
Ex-minister criticizes Rosneft-TNK BP transaction
Former Finance Minister Anatoly Kudrin, in an interview with the Vedomosti, characterized Dmitry Medvedev's government as "being on the weak side" and called Rosneft's deal with TNK BP "wrong."
"Of course, we have to wait a bit before giving an evaluation" /to the Cabinet/. But the first moves proved to be inefficient. Two crucial programs for education and science are under review, but the government still has no general plan. Every minister acts on his own. There is no consolidated policy. It is a problem," Kudrin said.
At the same time, he noted that one had to wait some time in order to give the final opinion of the government. "The government has become a hostage of populism at their own initiative," he underlined.
The government must plan only the expenditure for which it is ready to answer, the former minister said. In his view, "a considerably worsening of the effectiveness of the government's work is taking place at present. My heart is aching for the economic policy," Kudrin said. He underlined that he had been monitoring the situation closely but would not like to discuss the issue of his return to government as yet, because he did not see any conditions for it.
Kudrin explained why his opinion regarding the defense spending did not coincide with the government and the prime minister's: "Russia has no such opportunities and means to increase spending. If we strictly adhere to the announced targets, Russia will have to increase taxes and freeze the expenditure on other programs, such as education and infrastructure." Kudrin noted that Russia would spend some 30 trillion roubles on education before 2020, while defense spending would considerably exceed this sum. According to the official, law-enforces will cost the taxpayers 58 trillion roubles by 2020.
The former finance minister also criticized Rosneft's deal with TNK BP as "wrong." "I believe this transaction is wrong. An increase in tremendous reserves and resources of state-owned companies does not make a country happier. Look at Gazprom. At one point, it was among the world's top companies by capitalization. At present, it continues to have high profits, but capitalization has plunged by several times. Gazprom is operating blow its capitalization by several times. The world investment companies envision some 100 billion dollars of loss in a medium term for Gazprom; this is how low they rate the quality of Gazprom's management," Kudrin said.
In the energy sector, no serious results were achieved under Sechin. "One can say we've stepped back from the reforms. What is happening now is to the detriment of the economy," the ex minister noted.
Valdai Discussion Club
November 6, 2012
Optimal scenario for Russia's economic development
By David Lane
World's leading experts in economics and world politics gathered in St. Petersburg to find new ways for Russia's economic development. David Lane, Academician, Academy of Social Sciences; Emeritus Fellow, Emmanuel College, Cambridge, shared his views on these matters with Valdai Discussion Club.
The problem facing Russia has to do with what kinds of institutions are going to channel resources into positive economic and also social development. Just talking generally about the importance of institutions is insufficient. We need also to consider how investment is to be coordinated to promote industrial, commercial, service and social development.
Many countries have adopted different ways of doing this. To date most of the post-socialist countries have failed to create an effective form of capitalism. If you look at economic development in other countries, one finds that there are specific institutions which carry out and coordinate the development process. To ensure development, a country must have a renewed and continuous process of the accumulation of capital, and investment must be directed at effective sectors of the economy. For instance, in Germany, the banks as well as the state, played a very important role in determining the forms of development that took place. In the United Kingdom, in particular, the stock exchange is seen to play this role. In countries in the early stage of the development of capitalism, increasingly the state plays a significant role in setting strategic plans and in channeling and financing development. Also, it provides its own institutions and capital and influences other institutions, such as banks, to fulfill developmental plans.
The invisible hand of the market has to be replaced by some conscious decision making directing investment into fruitful areas. Russia has a large number of depressed areas and evidence so far shows that 'the market' on its own won't develop them or peripheral regions. In Ivanovo, for instance, people there on average earn only around 350 dollars per month. Official figures tend to underestimate the level of unemployment and concealed unemployment. Whereas Moscow might be considered as a part of the world economic system many other areas are really like peripheral countries in the world economic system. The market form of development has led to these regional imbalances.
To deal with peripheral regions that have lost their traditional industries, one needs some kind of regional plan. So my own prognosis is to recognize that market forces will have limited effectiveness under the conditions Russia now faces. If you look at the early development of successful capitalist countries, all had significant state support and they protected their own industries. South Korea, for example, followed this pattern and the recent evolution of China is another good example. The role of state banks and of state control over banks is an important factor here in channeling assets towards long-term, rather than immediately profitable, investment.
So what I would suggest is that the state adopts some kind of development plans for the Russian Federation as a whole, and linking this to developments in the republics and regions. There is a lot of local production that could be encouraged. Industrial development is not going to happen on its own: choosing 'winners' is not easy and mistakes will be made. But earlier France did this successfully and China has had a remarkable success with state led development. Moreover, relying on 'the market' tends to focus on investment, and many look to foreign investment. The problem here is that foreign investment is only worthwhile where there are short term profits to be made and Russia needs a long term strategy of continuous accumulation.
One has to take into account the social factor and have a definite policy for employment of the population. Curiously, employment and unemployment did not receive very much attention at this conference. The training of labour and the provision of work should have a central role in planning economic development. Otherwise, there will be significant social and political problems: for example, Greece and Spain currently have registered unemployment rates of over 35 per cent and many of the unemployed are university graduates. Even a country like the UK has significant regional unemployment problems following deindustrialization. The lack of well-paying jobs surely has something to do with the large number of young people we see demonstrating in the streets. Mobility of labour is secured in the European Union, but is the way out for countries of high unemployment for young people to emigrate? This seems to be one of the consequences of a low pay economy in Russia. But currently, Russia has one of the largest differentials between the very rich and the poor and the average wage is only around 700 dollars per month. I'd suggest more progressive tax rates. Even the UK Conservative government introduced a 50 per cent income tax rate Russia is far behind with a flat 13 per cent.
To take labour problems seriously, I'd like to see the setting up of a Ministry or State Committee for the Advancement of Employment and Job Creation. This would give the provision of jobs and well-paying jobs a prominent place in economic policy.
November 5, 2012
Russia Taking Over G-20 With Focus on Debt, Long-Term Investment
By Anastasia Ustinova
Russia will use its term as president of the Group of 20 to make recommendations on how to manage sovereign debt and help countries identify funding for long-term investment, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said.
Siluanov outlined Russia's goals over the next year at the close of a two-day meeting of finance ministers from G-20 nations in Mexico City.
"Economic growth is on everyone's agenda but no one has studied those questions in detail," Siluanov told reporters. "Today, there are global resources such as pension and insurance funds that could be transformed to fund infrastructure investments."
Russia will host its first meeting of finance officials from G-20 nations Feb. 15-16, in Moscow, Siluanov said.
Siluanov said he hopes to reach an agreement on how to overhaul the International Monetary Fund's quota system to give emerging markets more say in how the multilateral lender is run by the time leaders from G-20 nations gather in September, in St. Petersburg.
Russian premier seeks more serious attitude to global problems
November 6, 2012
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has called for a more serious attitude toward global problems, including environmental protection, global energy security and a lack of food.
"It is necessary to make sure that an appropriate environmental protection program is put into practice. In this context, we need to understand how efforts to protect the environment will be regulated," Medvedev said at the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), hosted by Laos.
"It is a must for all countries to contribute to the program aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I stress that this concerns all countries without exception. Otherwise, this program will be pointless," he said.
The Russian prime minister also supported a proposal to develop an international mechanism for handling the consequences of industrial and natural disasters. Efforts to prevent such calamities should be stepped up, he added.
Medvedev has also raised the problem of global energy security.
"Energy cooperation should be restructured to meet the interests of all participants," he said. "Amid changes in the international energy arena, the emergence of new threats challenging stability on the energy markets requires international laws better regulating energy cooperation."
Russia is convinced that energy security must be based on collective efforts, which implies guarantied supplies of traditional energy resources, more effective use with parallel environmental protection measures, and the development of new types of energy," he said.
A variety of initiatives could be used in this context "including the Russia-proposed global initiative," he said.
Intensification of energy ties will continue in Asia and the Pacific, he continued. "Russia's energy strategy as one of the main energy suppliers of hydrocarbons and other types of energy envisions an increase in the role of Asia-Pacific countries in its exports, actually to 30 percent," he said.
Speaking of the food problem, Medvedev said that "food is becoming more expensive in a trend that has persisted so far, and this has an impact on some members of the Asia-Europe Meeting forum, breeding social and political instability globally. We will participate in international programs to overcome this crisis," he said.
The application of innovative know-how for making the use of natural resources more effective and for enhancing the quality of food ranks among Russia's national priorities, Medvedev said.
"This is one of our national priorities and we are open for cooperation with our partners. The formation of an Eastern grain corridor and the construction of major grain terminals in the Far East are key elements of importance for all Asian countries," he said.
Business New Europe
6 November 2012
Dmitry Medvedev says Russia must look east
By Ben Aris
The world's centre of economic gravity is now starting to rapidly move east. In today's FT beyond the Brics blog Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev writes a guest post [November 3] saying that Russia must look east, but the process of rebalancing Russias economy in that direction is well in hand.
Given that the global economy's focus is shifting east, Russia simply must be more active in the Asia-Pacific region. That region is becoming the centre of global economic growth, generating about 55 per cent of global GDP and nearly half of global trade, Medvedev wrote.
This is the culmination of a long slow process of Russia turning its back on Europe and America thanks to the cold shoulder it has received as a result of the short-termsim of foreign policy.
If you remember president Vladimir Putin was the first international leader to call George W Bush with commiserations following the 9/11 attacks and then called Condi Rice to tell her the Russians were standing their army down as America put its on full alert an unprecedented gesture that was extremely well received at the time.
Putin was making a genuine effort in 2003 to reach out to the US and restart relations. Putin followed up by closing a high tech listening post in Cuba that could tap into the entire telecoms network on America's East Coast: I can't believe it, a US security official told me at the time when I called him for a comment after the news broke. That is far too valuable to them. They would never close it. This comradery reached its zenith with Bush famous I looked into his soul comment after meeting Putin in Moscow for which he as widely ridiculed.
Everything went down hill after that until Putin gave his famous Munich Security Council speech in 2007 throwing down the gauntlet, saying Russia would not wait forever for its overtures to be met with some sort of rapprochement.
Things only got worse. Following Medvedev's succession to the post of president he went to London where he repeated the same message, saying Europe was Russia's natural ally but that the west needed to meet Russia half way. He called for a new European security arrangement to replace the out of date NATO arrangement a call that is entirely justified in historical terms as NATO was set up to fight the Soviet Union, but one that has been entirely ignored.
This process of moving apart came to a complete break only this summer when Putin called on the US to give up its role as global leader and step aside in favour of the G20 as the new global authority in his keynote speech at the St Petersburg Economic Forum in June.
Since then the Kremlin has accelerated its plans to move closer to China in particular as was clear by the effort and money that was poured into hosting the APEC summit in Vladivostok in September.
However, this was only the culmination of a long process of gradually moving closer to China. It began in 2004 when the Kremlin decided to massively expand its delivery of oil to northwest China by rail, which was a sharp turnaround in policy for Russia. Part of the reason that Yukos owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky was thrown in jail in 2003 for wanting to build an oil pipeline from western Siberia to China's under developed northwest territories, which the Kremlin didn't like. But within a year, after taking over the Yukos assets, including its rail fleet, the Kremlin was doing the same thing and has even committed to building the same pipeline, plus a gas one, to the same region.
I was at a speech by former German Chancellor Gerhart Schroeder in Berlin in 2007 when he was already working for the Russian pipeline firm Nord Stream who repeated the warning: Russia is our natural ally, but there is a window of opportunity to engage with them. And that will close eventually.
In addition to the talk is the advent of the Customs Union that went into effect in January 2010. This has largely been dismissed by commentators as it only contains Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan so only Russia as far as the commentators are concerned plus a few baubles.
However, the EBRD is due to release its Transitions Report report tomorrow in which it will conclude the Customs Union has been a success and boosted the prosperity of the members.
Moreover, this body continues to develop and will become the Eurasia Economic Union in 2015 that will remove any restriction on the flow of capital, labour and goods. It is telling that Medvedev devoted quiet a bit of space to this in today's blog.
"Together with our Belarusian and Kazakhstani partners, Russia itself is involved in a large integration project. In 2015 we will found the Eurasian Economic Union, which will aim to open our national economies and create the conditions for establishing a common economic space from Europe's westernmost point to the Pacific Ocean. I am convinced that when the Eurasian Economic Union is fully operational we will be able to remove barriers hindering the movement of goods, capital and services in Eurasia," Medvedev wrote.
Again the EEU a facsimile of the EU, but without the EUs flaws (that's the idea) is ignored by most commentators, but here is an idea for you: what if China enters the EEU? Image the combination of China with its population of 1.3bn people and hoard of over $3 trillion reserves tying up with Russia's limitless natural resources. What would be the economic effect of this block if they removed all barriers to the movement of goods, money and labour? What sort of economic powerhouse would that be? Who could stand in its way? It would rapidly become the dominate global forces in every sense.
The problem with this is that the Russians and Chinese don't like each other and it is not natural partnership. But even the halfway house that Medvedev is talking about will create a major political and economic alliance.
And that bit of work is well in hand. Medvedev goes on in his blog to list the infrastructure especially transport projects that are already tying the two countries together.
International business gets it
Finally, the irony of this reorientation is that while the politicians and the international press blithely dismiss Russia as a backward kleptocracy that is verge of collapse (and has been for 12 years now despite its manifest growth) international companies have an entirely different opinion.
Second post on the FT caught my eye this morning: Brics: less risky? by Avantika Chilkoti that pointed out multinationals are rushing into Russia.
As bne reported there has been a bum rush of fast food multinationals opening up in Russia in the last year or so: just last week Burger King announced it would roll out hundreds of restaurants in Siberia for example. However, this trend is moving beyond the very bottom of the food chain (both literally and figuratively).
A survey by the professional services company BDO that interviewed over 1,000 CFOs from international medium-sized companies found that 45% are now planning to enter the Bric markets compared with only 29% last year.
Allan Evans, global head of client service at BDO, told the FT that perceived risk in Bric markets is falling: The Brics have been around as investment destinations for years now, with past experience on the ground to give investors confidence. And the Brics themselves have improved their regulatory environment to be more welcoming of inward investment.
The Kremlin has launched a major investment drive with moving up the World Bank's Doing Business ranking as the flagship reform and last week it was announced that Russia has gone from 120 in the list to 112, although it still well shy of the 20 place Putin wants to reach by 2018. Still, it is progress and the businessmen, if not the journalists or politicians, have noticed.
Russia still has problems of course the CFOs cited corruption and ethics as the main Russian risks but there are opportunities too. Of the reasons cited by CFO for wanting to go to Russia surprisingly 81% cited the market's size, the highest proportion of all the Brics only 69% cited market size for China and 64% for India. Commentators tend to look at the population sizes, but businesses look at the number of consumers and their spending power and Russia is a stand out winner in these terms as it is by far the richest Bric of the bunch.
The same logic applies to Russia's relation with Asia, which is advancing rapidly in Russia's trade balance. Medvedev made it explicit in his blog: "Russia has long been ready to co-operate to [with Asia]. We have centuries-long experience at the crossroads of different cultures and civilisations. No wonder Russia is called a Eurasian or a Euro-Pacific country, as some would have it. This will undoubtedly be a major asset in developing cultural dialogue between regions and continents and also in building a common economic space from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific."
November 5, 2012
Resetting the Reset
The United States needs to decide whether to treat Russia as a marginal global actor or an asset in America's global strategy.
BY DMITRI TRENIN
Dmitri Trenin is director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.
Whoever wins the U.S. presidency, Washington's Russia policy needs a reassessment and a rethink. The "reset" has run its course. The Obama administration's vaunted policy of engaging with Moscow did away with the irritants of the previous administration and allowed a modicum of cooperation on issues such as Afghanistan supply routes. It has failed to give America's Russia policy a strategic depth, but this was never the intention. But Mitt Romney's portrayal of Russia as "our number one geopolitical foe" and promising to be tough on Putin is not a policy either. Rhetoric has its uses on the campaign trail, but its value greatly diminishes when the challenger becomes the incumbent. The real choice for the new administration lies between keeping Russia on the periphery of the U.S. foreign policy, which means essentially taking a tactical approach, and treating Russia as an asset in America's global strategy.
Frankly, the former approach appears much more likely. As the United States struggles with the plethora of issues in the Middle East, Iran, and Afghanistan, and focuses more on China and Asia, Russia will be seen as a marginal or irrelevant factor. In some cases, as in Afghanistan, Moscow will continue to provide valuable logistical support; in others, such as Iran's nuclear program, it might be considered useful, but only up to a point; in still other cases, like Syria, it will be regarded as a spoiler due to its consistent opposition to the U.S. effort to topple the Assad regime. As regards China and East Asia, the United States will continue to ignore Russia, whose resources and role are believed to be negligible in that part of the world. Tellingly, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's seminal "pivot" article in Foreign Policy did not care to mention Russia at all.
When Russia's cooperation on foreign policy is deemed to matter little, and its opposition regarded as little more than nuisance, Moscow's interests and concerns are unlikely to be taken seriously in Washington. Reaching a deal on missile defense with the Russians and selling that deal in Washington may prove too much for the new Obama administration; a Romney White House would probably not bother to reach out to the Kremlin at all, even as it goes ahead with NATO deployments in Europe. That NATO's further enlargement to the east would likely continue to stall would have more to do with the political realities in Ukraine and Georgia, however, than with any restraint in Washington.
Moreover, various constituencies in the United States might take a more proactive attitude with regard to the domestic developments in Russia. Nearly a year after the beginning of large-scale protests following the flawed parliamentary elections last December, the Russia's domestic socio-political crisis has deepened. The Russian Awakening is on the way -- but the situation is complex, and the outcome wide open. A temptation arises to assist in the process by putting pressure on those in power (e.g., by means of the Magnitsky Bill, soon to become law) while simultaneously encouraging those who sail with the winds of change.
This has already made Washington a factor in Russian domestic politics. Even as the protesters deride the notion of being on the payroll of the United States, the Kremlin has been seeking to brand the opposition as "foreign agents" and to present itself as the fulcrum of Russian patriotism and defender of the national interest. In this logic, verbal attacks on Putin from the outside world benefit him. (And Romney's remarks help a lot.) Taking the cue from the authors of the Magnitsky Bill, the Kremlin is considering ordering Russian officials to repatriate their assets. If the elites' resistance could be overcome, this move would kill two birds with one stone: make Moscow less vulnerable to outside pressure, and increase the Kremlin's control over those who serve it. Meanwhile, the Kremlin has made several steps toward reducing U.S. influence in the country -- passing new restrictions on NGOs, expanding the definition of high treason, and ending USAID and Nunn-Lugar programs in Russia.
There is no way to insulate Russian domestic politics from the relationship with Washington. A few things, however, need to be taken into account. One, domestic changes in Russia will come, but they will come as a result of internal dynamics. Outside interference, even of marginal utility, can backfire badly. Two, the likely changes in Russia will not necessarily make it closer to the United States politically. As it transforms further, Russia will probably swing to the socialist left and at the same time become more nationalistic. Three, whatever happens in the country internally, Russia will be determined to remain an independent strategic player.
With all this in mind, should and can the United States develop a strategic approach to Russia or just continue to approach it tactically? The next administration must do the former. Russia has a view about the global order which prioritizes sovereignty and non-interference in countries' internal affairs. Coupled with Moscow's blocking power at the U.N. Security Council, going around Russia has real costs for the United States. Russia has more relevance than any other country -- except for the United States itself -- on the whole range of nuclear weapons issues, from arms control and strategic stability to WMD proliferation and talks with Iran and North Korea. Russia also has an intimate if complex relationship with China, from coordinating policies that frustrate Washington at the U.N. level to over 2,700 miles of common border to cooperation-cum-competition in the arms sphere.
The intellectual problem facing U.S. policymakers is that present-day Russia is neither an ally to be led nor a serious threat to be contained. This problem needs to be addressed if U.S. foreign policy is to be more than a fire brigade rushing from one conflict to another (be that Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, or Syria) or a power engaged in successive confrontations -- with Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and, as some believe, possibly with China. The starting point for escaping that pattern is thinking through the implications of the fundamental geopolitical, economic, demographic, technological changes in the international system. At the moment, the United States seems to be too much obsessed with the rise of China and over-preoccupied with the developments in the Arab world. By contrast, Europe, Africa, India, Latin America, and Russia are all getting scant attention. For a truly global policy, there has to be a better balance.
As to the Russia policy proper, three strategic goals would make sense. First is achieving practical cooperation with Moscow through coordinated missile defenses in Europe, which would not only make the Euro-Atlantic a zone of stable peace, but also ensure that Russia will not be on the wrong side of the United States in the evolving global balance. Second is promoting economic cooperation in the North Pacific, where the United States and Russia are near neighbors. A joint project, also involving Canada, Japan, and other countries such as Australia can both help Russia develop its Siberian and Pacific provinces, and contribute to overall stability in the region. Third is the joint economic, transport, and infrastructure development of the Arctic, where Russia has the longest shoreline of the five littoral countries.
Can the United States focus on those issues or will it instead continue to treat Russia as near-irrelevant in global terms but still dangerous to its smaller neighbors which require U.S. protection and support? Obama would probably be a better manager of the relationship than Romney, but even for him Russia comes as an afterthought, an accessory to more important issues such as Afghanistan. Romney's foreign policy is an open question, and finding a place for Russia in it will be even more challenging. Can the next administration strike the right balance between American interests and values when it comes to Moscow, or will they allow themselves to be used by the various forces within Russia, where serious political struggle is just beginning? If the next U.S. administration does not rise above the, frankly, very mediocre general level of the post-Cold War U.S.-Russia policy, Washington will continue losing opportunities and limiting its options. A reset is not enough, and it cannot be repeated anyway. It is time for a re-think.
Russian observers to be literally knocking on doors of US polling stations
WASHINGTON, November 6 (Itar-Tass) Russian observers will be literally "knocking on the doors of the polling stations" at the US presidential elections on Tuesday, State Duma deputy and member of the State Duma committee for security and counteraction to corruption Ilya Kostunov told Itar-Tass on Monday.
He and several other Russian observers Olga Alimova, Sergei Chizhov, Eduard Markin and Oganes Oganyan are members of the US election monitoring mission from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
"On Tuesday we will be literally knocking on the doors of the polling stations and will be asking to let us in," Kostunov said, adding that they "have no certificates of observers."
In this respect, the Russian lawmaker recalled a story in the US state Texas, where Attorney General Greg Abbott sent a letter to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, warning that the Texas legislation bans the OSCE observers to enter the polling stations. Abbott noted that the staying of the OSCE observers 100 feet (little more than 30 metres) away from the entrance to a polling station can be found as a criminal offence, and the refusal to obey to these requirements can entail criminal persecution for the OSCE representatives for violation of the Texas law.
"We will not go to Texas, but hope that in other states we will face a more respectful attitude to international observers," Kostunov went on to say. Meanwhile, he noted that "the United States did not send an official invitation to them." "We will sooner be guests than observers, because the US did not grant the status of observers to us," the deputy explained. "It is difficult to find out," why this happened. "The US has many problems in their election system, they are perfectly aware of them. Probably they do not want the international community to note their shortcomings to them as well," the Russian lawmaker said.
Kostunov noted that though they arrived in the US as observers from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, "we cannot be recognized as observers at concrete polling stations." "There are no common rules, each election committee works automatically," he added.
Kostunov emphasized that "the list (for visiting) of the polling stations in neighbouring states was offered" to members of the observer mission. "It is clear that we are primarily interested in swing states, but not those states, where everything is predetermined," he said. "I do not know about other members of the mission, but I would like to see, how the voting is organized in big blocks, where unfavourable layers of the population live," Kostunov underlined.
The Guardian (UK)
November 6, 2012
Russia's view on the US elections
Mitt Romney's description of Russia as America's "No 1 geopolitical foe" arrived during a period of increasing anti-American rhetoric in Russian politics
By Miriam Elder and Howard Amos
With anti-Americanism creeping back to the forefront of political rhetoric in Moscow, many in Russia slyly smiled when Romney this year called Russia "our No 1 geopolitical foe".
Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, said the remark showed Romney was "open and sincere". He added: "That Romney considers us enemy No 1 and apparently has bad feelings about Russia is a minus, but, considering that he expresses himself bluntly, openly and clearly, [this] means he is an open and sincere man, which is a plus
"We will be oriented toward pluses, not minuses. And I am actually very grateful to him for formulating his position in a straightforward manner."
The statement harked back to Soviet times, when Russia's leaders preferred dealing with Republicans who were seen as straight-talking, if tough to Democrats, seen here as masking their anti-Russian stance behind talk of human and civil rights, viewed with suspicion inside Russia.
Maria Lipman, an expert at the Moscow Carnegie Centre, said: "Particularly after the expulsion of the USAid, Washington's international aid agency, the Kremlin is now too committed to a path of using its old cold war foe as a bogeyman to consolidate wavering domestic support. Anti-American rhetoric in Russia has gone too far to shift easily now."
Nor has there been much effort from the US presidential candidates to address policy towards Russia except for cheap point scoring, she added, and the next occupant of the White House was unlikely to seek to introduce any significant changes.
Romney even appears in private to be backpedalling on his "number one geopolitical foe" comment. He used his son, Matt Romney, to pass a placatory message to Putin last month during a business trip to Moscow, according to a recent report in the New York Times.
Many Russians have little interest in the race going on in the US, remaining sceptical that it can influence their lives.
In a suburban train heading into Moscow on Friday evening, there was widespread indifference. "Honestly, I don't care," said Sergei Chernenko, a 23-year old barman, adding that the election's outcome was irrelevant.
Irina Kaidina, an accountant, concurred. Her son lived in New York, she said, but she couldn't remember the name of Barack Obama's challenger.
Assistant engineer Nikolai Kuprianov, 32, however, said he had been following the presidential campaign. "Obama would, of course, be a better choice in terms of attitudes towards Russia but Americans have never loved Russia and they only want us for our natural resources," he said.
Obama had made the "reset" in relations with Russia an early foreign policy priority, but with recent disagreements over Syria, plus Moscow's accusation that the US stands behind opposition protests against Putin, what was once hailed as a success is now seen as dead.
Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said as much in an interview published this week: "If we talk about the 'reset', it is clear that, using computer terminology, it cannot last forever. Otherwise it would not be a 'reset' but a program failure".
Among Russia's chief concerns are energy policy Putin's ability to govern rests on a high oil price, analysts say and US plans for missile defence in Europe, which it opposes but both candidates support.
November 6, 2012
Expert Discussion Panel
Which US presidential candidate is better able to meet the challenges ahead?
[with Vlad Sobell, Edward Lozansky, Anatoly Karlin, Irina Bubnova, Vlad Ivanenko, and Dale Herspring)
The US presidential election on 6 November is, arguably, the most important such ballot since the Second World War, given both the deep economic crisis that continues to grip the globe and the international security challenges threatening world stability.
President Obama entered office at a time when, owing to theeconomic and foreign policies of his predecessor, the federal fiscal deficit and public debt had risen to unprecedented levels in peacetime. While there is encouraging evidence that the economy is rebounding, the recovery will be very fragile: the downside risks are significant, not least thanks to the looming "fiscal cliff" (tax rises and further public expenditure cuts in 2013) as the White House struggles to bring public finances onto a sustainable footing. And early next year, Washington will need to raise once again the limit on public sector borrowing a difficult political hurdle likely to generate yet more uncertainty. Meanwhile, the US's largest trade partner the European Union is headed for recession or at best will continue to teeter on the brink, while economic growth in China the US's third-largest trade partner (after Canada) is weakening.
The international situation is equally perilous. Chronic instability and terrorism will continue in the Middle East, while the risk of military confrontation between Iran and Israel will almost certainly increase. At the same time, the new US administration will have to oversee the pullout from Afghanistan without leaving that country wholly ungovernable.
Not least, however, Washington will need to focus on the continued geopolitical challenge of a re-emerging China. While this major secular change brings immense all-round benefits, it poses potentially huge risks of minor frictions escalating. The President will need to display a judicious mix of firmness, realism and, on occasion, humility in order to keep relations with China on an even keel.
Finally, US relations with Russia are likely to remain very fraught. The reason for this is that President Putin will in no way relax Russia's security posture in the face of Western anti-missile defence plans.
Which of the presidential candidates is better equipped to tackle the challenges of the coming years? Why? On a less serious note, who in your opinion will win?
The topic for the Discussion Panel is provided by Vlad Sobell, Expert Discussion Panel Editor (New York University, Prague)
Expert Panel Contributions
Edward Lozansky, President, American University in Moscow:
Given that the Presidential race is in a dead heat, every vote counts and therefore every responsible citizen should think very hard whom to choose as his/her favorite. The stakes are indeed very high and America definitely needs a strong commander-in-chief who can get us out of this huge economic, financial, and security mess. However, those of us who are DC residents have the dubious privilege of knowing the outcome for our district before the race even begins. As far as I know the Republicans have never been able to win our three electoral votes since March 29, 1961, when Congress ratified the Constitutional Amendment XXIII, which finally gave DC the right to vote in presidential elections. Not even Ronald Reagan, who carried 49 states in 1984 and got 525 out of total 538 electoral votes (the highest number in US history!), was able to perform this miracle.
On a more positive note this takes some pressure off not least our conscience and we can think more pragmatically, leaving emotions aside. So, which US presidential candidate is better able to meet the challenges ahead? There is a traditional question that we should ask. It was first asked by the same Ronald Reagan in 1980, when he campaigned against Jimmy Carter: Are you better off than you were four years ago?
Considering that on domestic affairs the country is equally divided, there is no clear consensus on that and therefore there is no point in listening to candidate's rhetoric. Both are skilful enough to manipulate the facts and, on top of that, Obama always has a fallback position of blaming everything on Bush.
That leaves us with the foreign policy and security matters. Are we better off than in 2008? George Bush did indeed leave a terrible mess for Obama. The damage done by Bush boggles the mind but was Obama able to undo it or generate some new and, for America, more beneficial foreign policy initiatives? I don't think so but according to the polls the majority of Americans disagrees and believes that Obama can do a better job in foreign affairs than Romney.
US policy on Russia has little effect on the elections, but in this area there has definitely been some, though I'd stress, limited improvement on the Bush's era. Therefore, as strange as it may sound, Romney may do a better job in this respect, despite his now famous designation of Russia as the top geopolitical enemy of the United States. Obama, most likely, will continue his sluggish "reset", which is becoming less and less meaningful. In addition, he will have to constantly prove to the Republican majority in Congress that he is not weak on Russia, not only through rhetoric but also by pursuing some confrontational policies.
Romney, on another hand, is well known for his flip-floppiness. During the last televised debate with Obama, he retracted the word "enemy" (in relation to Russia), replacing it with "adversary", whatever that means. Moreover, he sent his son Matt to Moscow. Some say that trip was strictly business, raising money (from the archenemy?), had nothing to do with politics, but would you believe that? Indeed, rumor has it that Matt Romney is carrying a secret and more conciliatory message to the Kremlin.
President Putin took notice by stating that "That Mr. Romney considers us to be enemy No. 1 and apparently has bad feelings about Russia is a minus, but the fact that he expresses himself bluntly, openly and clearly means that he is an open and sincere man, which is a plus," And Putin added that "If he is elected president of the US, certainly we will work with him as an elected head of state."
OK, so who is going to win next Tuesday? Some say that it is impossible to predict given the dead heat in the polls; but my former colleague Allan Lichtman from the American University in Washington, who developed a special "13-key" theory about Presidential elections with the Russian mathematician Vladimir Keilis-Borok, believes that he knows the answer.
And the winner is . . . Just read to the end to find out.
Their research shows that Americans choose their president largely according to the performance of the party holding the White House. If the nation fares well during the term of the incumbent party, that party generally wins another four years in office; otherwise, the challenging party prevails.
More precisely, thirteen conditions, or "keys," that gauge the performance of the incumbent hold clues for this year's election's outcome. When five or fewer keys are false, the incumbent party candidate wins. When six or more are false, the other party candidate wins.
* Key 1: Party mandate. After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than it did after the previous midterm elections. (False)
* Key 2: Contest. There is no serious contest for the incumbent-party nomination. (True)
* Key 3: Incumbency. The incumbent-party candidate is the sitting president. (True)
* Key 4: Third party. There is no significant third-party or independent campaign. (True)
* Key 5: Short-term economy. The economy is not in recession during the election campaign. (True)
* Key 6: Long-term economy. Real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms. (False)
* Key 7: Policy change. The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy. (True)
* Key 8: Social unrest. There is no sustained social unrest during the term. (True)
* Key 9: Scandal. The administration is untainted by major scandal. (True)
* Key 10: Foreign/military failure. The administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs. (True)
* Key 11: Foreign/military success. The administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs. (True)
* Key 12: Incumbent charisma. The incumbent-party candidate is charismatic or a national hero. (False)
* Key 13: Challenger charisma: The challenging-party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero. (True)
Consequently, with only three "false" keys, Obama is the predicted winner this November. Whether this is good for America, the world and US-Russia relations remains to be seen. And, of course, Lichtman and Keilis-Borok could be wrong. After all, scientists sometimes make mistakes too.
Anatoly Karlin, Da Russophile
When predicting election outcomes, I prefer to listen to those who put their money where their mouths are. As of the time of writing, the Intrade predictions market gives a 66% implied probability of an Obama win. The major betting websites are even more optimistic about Obama's chances, with most of them giving him implied odds of about 80%. He is even considered more likely than not to win the popular vote, though because of the peculiarities of the US electoral system, it is also quite possible for him to lose the popular vote but still win the Presidency (about a 25% chance of this, according to Intrade). I will now most likely lose the symbolic $10 I placed on a Republican candidate win back in May 2010, when a sharp but unsustainable spike in favor of Obama accruing from Osama bin Laden's assassination created very good odds for the contrarian gambler. Still, I don't regret the investment. Always bet against your preferred candidate that way, you will never be wholly disappointed.
We know that Obama is phlegmatic on the ill-thought out Magnitsky Act, and is likewise lukewarm about missile defense in East-Central Europe to the extent that he pledged "more flexibility" on this issue to Medvedev in an unfortunate open mic moment that the Republicans later spun for all it was worth. (The Poles seem to have come to terms with this, and are now preparing to spend $4 billion of their own money to modernize their AA systems in the next decade). This is probably driven not so much by a desire to enlist Russia as an ally, as to give the US room to deal with the more pressing issues that will dominate Obama's second term: The withdrawal from Afghanistan; the military pivot to Asia; a sluggish economy plagued by chronically high budget deficits; the accelerating climate crisis. Another alternative is that Obama's people take seriously the CIA/Stratfor theory, hinted at by Biden in 2009, that Russia's "shrinking population base" will nullify it as a Great Power in a couple of decades; hence, it is no longer worth aggressively confronting it as natural trends will doom it to eventual irrelevance anyway. But whatever the true motivations, we can reasonably expect the Reset to survive under a new Obama Presidency.
The GOP position is rather less compromising:
We urge the leaders of their [Russia] to reconsider the path they have been following: suppression of opposition parties, the press, and institutions of civil society; unprovoked invasion of the Republic of Georgia, alignment with tyrants in the Middle East; and bullying their neighbors while protecting the last Stalinist regime in Belarus. The Russian people deserve better, as we look to their full participation in the ranks of modern democracies.
Needless to say, the only part of "the Russian people" who would look on these urgings with sympathy are the small gaggle of pro-Western liberals like Lilia Shevtsova (who brought this to my attention). They slavishly side with America against their own country on every issue they disagree on, so long as it helps undermine Putin. While she is right that such policies would "send a strong signal of support to Russian liberals that America does care about the values and principles it preaches", it would also likewise alienate not only the Russian government but ordinary Russians too (41% of whom prefer Obama to 8% for Romney in a recent Levada poll). Coupled with his equally confrontational attitudes to China, and the aggressive neocon foreign policy advisors he has surrounded himself with, Romney would appear to be dead-set on provoking into existence that nightmare of Cold War planners a Russian-Chinese alliance. This would be first and foremost a disaster for America itself.
Then again, as many have already pointed out, Romney is a flip-flopper, and his bellicose rhetoric may well dissipate should he somehow find himself in the White House. Though Romney might describe Russia as America's "number one geopolitical foe", that did not prevent his son Matt from recently flying to the evil empire to promote his real-estate company and purportedly assure influential Kremlin advisors that his dad does want good relations between their two countries. If money and the practical exigencies of Presidential office trump his campaign rhetoric, there is good reason to hope that the Reset can survive even under a Romney Presidency.
Irina Bubnova, American University in Moscow:
Conventional wisdom has it that it doesn't really matter who wins the 6 November presidential election in the US. And given the current international situation and the state of US-Russia relations, it is clear that the United States and Russia will never agree on the most divisive issues, such as missile defense or Syria. Nevertheless, I think that Barack Obama would be better for Russia and the world than Mitt Romney.
Needless to say, the Republicans generally never miss an opportunity to criticize Russia. But in the midst of the election campaign they have used anti-Russian rhetoric as an effective weapon against Obama, whose "reset" policy has been one of the key planks of the President's foreign policy. Obama's (and outgoing President Medvedev's) lack of caution when discussing "future flexibility" on the missile defenses in Seoul in late March clearly did not help: US media gave ample coverage to Mitt Romney's comments in the wake of the presidents' embarrassing "open mic moment"; and, unsurprisingly, the episode provided substance to Romney's description of Russia as America's "foe Number 1".
Indeed, in the eyes of the Republicans that statement amounted virtually to a "betrayal" of US national interests by America's incumbent president. "Today Russia, not Iran or North Korea, is a geopolitical enemy of the United States. Russia always fights for every cause for the world's worst actors." Romney promptly told CNN. It is not, therefore, surprising that Romney has based his policy toward Russia on the promise to "reset the reset".
For his part, President Dmitry Medvedev responded by saying that: "I recommend to all US candidates to the presidency at least two things: first that they use their head and consult their reason when they formulate their positions, and that they check their clocks from time to time it is now 2012, not the mid-1970s". Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov followed suit by saying that all these statements are driven by "specific circumstances, specific needs of the political struggle that is going on ahead of the upcoming elections in the United States."
Russian officials were not alone in criticizing the Republicans. No less a figure than Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to President Carter and a leading American scholar on geopolitics, has sharply criticized Romney and the Republican camp in general. Speaking on CNN in February he commented: "...look at those Republican debates. I must say I literally feel embarrassed as an American when I see those people orate". It is a telling fact that Brzezinski, who earned himself the reputation as a harsh critic of Putin's Russia, now stands for a constructive dialogue with Russia in order to address common geopolitical challenges.
On coming to office, President Obama wisely abandoned the radical anti-Russian rhetoric of George Bush Jr. and began to formulate a more rational stance the policy of all-round cooperation with Russia. He, unlike his political opponents, recognized that cooperation with Russia is in the best geopolitical interests of the US.
So if Romney becomes president, it looks like we will be hearing Cold War rhetoric again. Washington will spare no effort to restore a unipolar world and US global hegemony. But is that what modern geopolitical realities and interests of the US and the rest of the world dictate?
For all its faults, Obama's "reset" pursues a policy toward Russia that is beneficial for the United States itself. Here are some milestones that have been achieved during Obama's presidency: a new START treaty, mutually beneficial cooperation in the pacification of Afghanistan (and the struggle against drugs trafficking and terrorism), the establishment of joint positions in regard to nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, Russia's accession to the WTO, and the White House's support for the lifting of the Jackson-Vanik amendment this year to name just a few.
It is reasonable to assume that Obama will continue to view US-Russia relations as a partnership of two strong powers based on mutual interests and respect. This would be beneficial not only for Russia and the United States but for the international community as a whole. This doesn't mean that Russia and the US will have no disagreements. But in the final analysis, a constant mutually beneficial dialogue with each other in addressing common global challenges is the most rational path.
Vlad Ivanenko, PhD economics, Ottawa
Thinking about the optimal U.S. strategy brings to mind the words of John the Baptist upon the arrival of Christ: "He must become greater; I must become less."
Whoever takes the reins in the US must be ready to navigate the increasingly more treacherous waters with progressively fewer survival kits. It is difficult to foresee exactly from where the strongest challenge to American supremacy will come. Economically, several Asian countries clustered around China, Germany and certain petroleum-exporting regions, Russia included, may see their global importance growing, but each of these contenders may well experience political turbulence. At the same time, a political revival appears to be taking place in the Middle East but how this part of the world can progress economically is unclear.
But first, it is necessary to ask on what foundations the notion that US supremacy will be challenged rests.
Commentators rightly identify the US's unsustainable fiscal situation as the main trigger of global economic and political instability. But this in itself is only the consequence of deeper economic disorder. The American economic decline did not start four years ago: the market turmoil of 2008 exposed the simple fact that a free-market economy could not live forever in debt to the rest of world. From 1998 onward the US balance of payments deteriorated progressively. Under such circumstances, the mainstream economic advice in 2008 would have been to let the market sort out the problems through bankruptcies, seizure of assets by foreign creditors, unemployment and fall in real wages.
But this scenario was averted with massive state intervention in the markets. Make no mistake that since then contemporary economic theory has had no sure way of predicting what problems we can expect, not to mention how to handle them. The world is going through one of the greatest social experiments of all time: politicians all over the world are groping forward using the time-honored 'trial and error' approach. Is it at all possible to act "strategically" in such circumstances?
Yet palliatives are available if strategic problem-solving is not an option. In this respect, the incumbent President has the upper hand over his Republican rival. His record is of adapting to situations instead of fundamentally changing them, and this approach certainly works in the short term. For example, since there is no solution to the problem of the public deficit on the horizon, we can always increase the ceiling of public debt again and over again. Suppose China gets nervous and does not want to increase its holding of US government securities. Well, why not retaliate by employing regulatory and political tools to forestall Chinese investments in North America and elsewhere? If private investors do not wish to buy additional T-bills, it is always possible to proceed to the next round of "quantitative easing" by the Federal Reserve. Granted, the rate of inflation will increase as the result of US public debt monetization; but as long as the US dollar is the global reserve currency, domestic inflationary taxation will be shared with the world, and this, in turn, provides justification for actions aimed at the weakening of competing currencies such as the Euro. The list of such possible short-term measures goes on and on . . .
In general, avoiding tackling the roots of the problem head on,which I see in the diminished competitiveness of the U.S. economy, amounts to political procrastination; but this approach is optimal under the circumstances. I believe that the average US voter would find Barack Obama better suited to operate in the zugzwang in which the US finds itself at the end of 2012. After all, it may turn out that the rest of world is even less prepared for the challenges ahead and will be weakened even more by the crisis.
On this "optimistic" note, let me finish by refuting the maxim that "economics is a dismal science.". It suffices to substitute the word "crisis" with the phrase "structural change" and everything is back in order. After all, we all know that it is through "creative destruction" that human progress is achieved. Or maybe not?
Dale Herspring, University Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Kansas State University
I am probably not giving the answer Vlad Sobell sought, but I don't think it makes much difference. Vlad has done an excellent job of outlining the myriad of problems facing the next president, but I think that given the super-storm and the problems with the US economy, primary focus will be domestic.
That does not mean that Russia is irrelevant, only that it will take a back seat to domestic issues. Vlad is right about the Israel vs. Iran problem it could blow up our faces and if it does we will be faced with a whole different reality.
The major difference I see in the two candidates is support for the US military. If Obama wins, the US military will continue to slip. If Romney wins, there will be a fresh injection of money into the military, much as Putin has done with the Russian military.
I think Vlad is right when he says that Putin does not intend to move forward without an agreement on missile defense. I may be wrong but I think getting the Americans to agree to limiting defensive missiles after the recent successful test has about the same chance of occurring as a snowball would have to survive in Hell. You cannot expect the US which is far more concerned about Iran - or even China - to "disinvent" a new weapons system. It is possible that an Obama government would be willing to talk about limits, but I am not sure how it would go to meet Puin's concerns.
I have mentioned it previously, but I think it is important to keep in mind what happened with Putin. He faced a hostile Bush II government, but things changed in a major way in the aftermath of 9/11 and his phone call to Bush. I am not suggesting that we need a similar event (God help us), but that it is always possible for an unexpected intervening event to change things radically.
Jamestown Foundation Eurasia Daily Monitor
November 5, 2012
US Elections Deepen the Divergence Between Russia's and Putin's Interests
By Pavel K. Baev
The choice that the United States will make tomorrow is certain to have a strong impact on US-Russia relations, but President Vladimir Putin cannot figure out what outcome will suit his interests better. Back in 2004, he opted for endorsing George W. Bush, which the 43rd US President did not find helpful or even amusing, perhaps sincerely regretting his "look-in-the-eye" insight. This time around, Putin sees no chance of gaining a modicum of personal chemistry with the next US leader. Barack Obama is a known quality and has plenty of stakes to defend in the policy of "reset" with Russia. But the irony of staying on this course is that Obama has to defend the achievements from Mr. Putin. The abrupt termination of the praiseworthy Nunn-Lugar program confirms that Putin does not share the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, and the expulsion of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) signals the Kremlin's desire to block the channels of "interference" in its authoritarian degeneration (Moskovskie Novosti, October 29). Obama invested much effort in building rapport with Dmitry Medvedev, and Putin could have simply simpered at those wasted investments and nothing more, if only Medvedev had not dared to challenge his supremacy in such crucial matters as the composition of the budget or the reform of the pension system (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 1; Finmarket, November 2).
Mitt Romney irks the Kremlin to no end with his persistent promises to show Putin real toughness and not "flexibility," which Obama carelessly mentioned and then far from convincingly tried to explain away (Kommersant, October 30). Romney was perhaps even more careless in describing Russia as America's "number one geopolitical foe," but many in Moscow are thrilled about the prospect of being elevated to such a strategic status (Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie, November 2). Others reflect that it was often easier for the Soviet and Russian leaders to deal with tough-minded Republicans, and take note of the surprise business visit to Moscow of the candidate's son Matt Romney (Moscow echo, November 2). One consideration that rings alarms in the Kremlin is that many experts in the Republican camp worked in the second Bush administration and shaped the course of fostering the "color revolutions," which remain a menacing specter for Putin, who presses further with targeted repressions and refuses to acknowledge the build-up of domestic discontent (Gazeta.ru, November 1).
What makes these US elections particularly irritating for Putin is their most untimely demonstration of the value of political competition, which involves a choice between substantially different platforms informed by fair and content-rich debates. Seeking to corrupt this impression, the official propaganda spins the report of the Central Electoral Commission, which criticizes "systematic and large-scale violations of legislation," and makes an issue of the less than lukewarm welcome of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers in Texas (Grani.ru, October 31). A good argument could indeed be made for a transition to direct elections that would guarantee that the US president is elected by majority vote, but there is hardly any doubt that Americans would give this argument every consideration before deciding to abandon the tradition of the Electoral College (New Times, October 30).
Interest in US elections is always high in Russia, but this year it is mixed with reflections on recent parliamentary elections in Georgia and Ukraine. In the former, the strength of character shown by President Mikhail Saakashvili in accepting the narrow defeat after the bitterly fought campaign might lead to normalization of relations with Russia (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 2). In the latter, most Russians shared the Kremlin's expectations that the Party of Regions, led by President Viktor Yanukovich, would score a solid victory, but in fact, it has managed to win only a slim majority of seats registering barely 30 percent support on the party ballot (Kommersant, October 30). Most commentators agree that in the Ukrainian Verhovna Rada, the traditional pattern of quarreling and bargaining endures, but the massive electoral manipulations and fraud signify a curtailing of democracy (Gazeta.ru, October 30). One worrisome change is the strong support for the extreme nationalist party Svoboda (Liberty), which corresponds to the fast growth of nationalist groups in Russia as demonstrated by their march in downtown Moscow last Sunday (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 1; Gazeta.ru, November 2).
It is remarkable that with all the polarization of views in Russian society, the expressed preferences for the outcome of the US elections are much the same as in most European countries: 41 percent of respondents want to see Obama re-elected, while only 8 percent prefer Romney, and the rest are undecided (Levada.ru, October 30). Russians understand perfectly well that the absolutely central issue in the choice Americans are making is the economy. The Russian public may have instinctive mistrust in the recipes for recovery that Romney is selling, but it is clear that the gloating over US financial troubles has completely evaporated and a sober reckoning of Russia's economic vulnerability to these troubles has prevailed. There is also understanding that the main foreign policy problem for a US president in the weeks and months after the elections is the escalating turmoil in the Middle East. And while mistrust in US "hegemonic ambitions" is still strong, concerns about the limitations on the West's ability to induce stability in the newly-perturbed nests of radicalism from Benghazi to Aleppo are diluting the residual and officially encouraged anti-Americanism (Kommersant, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 2).
The message from the US elections that many Russians are internalizing is about political competition as the natural avenue for change, and this brings into sharper focus Putin's hostility to any change in the system of rigidly centralized and increasingly dysfunctional controlas well as his fear of competition. He is no longer seeking opportunities to cultivate personal ties with Western peers and seeks only their indifference to the brewing political crisis in Russia. He suspects the West in undermining his vision of a powerful and proud Derzhava and refuses to admit that his reliance on corruption, misinformation and repression propels Russia toward a cataclysm, which nobody in the West wishes to deal with. Tomorrow, the United States will help Russia recognize how much it needs legitimate leadershipand Putin stands in the way.
Russian pundits see ties with USA unaffected by poll outcome
November 5, 2012
The outcome of the US presidential election will not change Russian-US relations significantly, Russian pundits have said, as reported by the Russian privately-owned news agency Interfax on 5 November.
The first vice-president of the Centre for Political Technologies, Aleksey Makarkin, said that Obama's victory would mean the continuation of the "reset" but problems would still remain.
Makarkin said: "Certainly, if Obama wins, then this will mean the prevalence of the course in relation to Russia. Discussions devoted to the reset will continue but, at the same time, problems on both Syria and missile defence will remain. Further talks on democracy and the development of human rights in Russia will continue."
He added: "It is unlikely that there will be any serious changes even if Mitt Romney wins. Certainly, if he wins, then discussions on the reset will stop. However, all above-mentioned problems will remain and the agenda in the relations will be similar. In any case, if Romney wins, then he will prove himself more of a pragmatist in the presidential seat in contrast to the election campaign period when he took an emphatically critical position towards Russia."
Meanwhile, first deputy head of the State Duma International Affairs Committee Vyacheslav Nikonov has said that the victory of either of the US presidential hopefuls would not change Russian-US relations fundamentally.
"This will not fundamentally change anything in terms of Russian-US relations with the exception that Obama had earlier told the Russian leadership that it would be easier for him to conduct dialogues with Moscow after the election," Nikonov said.
He added: "In case of Obama's victory there is nothing that indicates the development of relations along a crisis scenario. If Mitt Romney wins, then judging by his team, certainly, one may fail to come to the happiest conclusion. His main foreign policy experts are such that they attest to the possibility of problem relations between Russia and the USA."
Although seeming to agree with other experts in general, political analyst Nikolay Zlobin painted a bleak picture of Russian-US relations.
Zlobin said: "In principle, regardless of Romney's victory or defeat, one can say that Russian-US relations will continue to worsen in general; regardless of who will lead these two countries because the potential for improving relations between Russia and the USA, which had existed in the past several years, has been used up. But problems, which remain and which cannot be resolved, are deepening. Therefore, relations are fraught with becoming worse."
In turn, the chairman of the presidium of the public council on foreign defence policy, Sergey Karaganov, said that Russian-US relations had started to cool down during the current US administration.
Karaganov said: "I believe that the relations will not change fundamentally. Cooling has already taken place under the current administration. All of Mitt Romney's statements on Russia must be divided by four since he will inherit the same problems that Barak Obama's is bearing now. However, it will be even more difficult for him (Romney) to solve them since he has not offered very effective ways to resolve them."
Russian pundit says Magnitskiy list not to affect Russian-US ties
Moscow, 5 November: Russia will not be able to prevent the adoption of the so called Magnitskiy list either in the USA or in Europe, deputy head of the USA and Canada Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences Viktor Kremenyuk said.
"The Magnitskiy list will certainly be adopted (in the USA - Interfax) and Europe will also take measures, because these countries want to defend their interests. And they are interested in not allowing corrupt capital, our corrupt officials to keep money in their banks, buy property there and in general to feel at home (in the West - Interfax)," Kremenyuk told Interfax.
According to the pundit, "one can understand a fierce indignation of our rich people or those who made their fortunes through corruption that there will now be restrictions against them". "They will face restrictions, there is no doubt about it!", he said.
Kremenyuk suggested the West would continue to criticize Russia over human rights.
"There has always been, there is and there will be criticism, because in terms of human rights Russia is unfortunately doing a lot of things in the wrong way," the scientist said.
He puts it down to the "new legislation, which pushes protesting and opposition-minded people into 'camps of enemies', as well as many other things which the authorities are doing without thinking about their image, their prestige and how other countries will regard this".
Meanwhile, he argues the adoption of the Magnitskiy list will not affect Russian-US relations in any way. "I think indifference will simply grow," he said.
Kremenyuk suggests Russia will see its position in Western countries weakening in the near future. (Passage omitted to end: background)
Russia Beyond the Headlines
November 5, 2012
Russian-American voters no longer predictable
While many still equate conservatism with free enterprise and anti-communism, young voters and seniors on medicare lean a little left.
By Alexander Gasyuk, Xenia Grubstein
The political profile of the Russian-American community, long considered a bulwark of support for the Republican Party, is beginning to change as a young generation with no experience of the Soviet Union comes of voting age. At the same time, some Russian-American seniors, concerned about social programs like medicare and social security, are also reviewing their longtime support for Republican candidates.
Nina Zaretskaya is a 33-year-old professional who works for a financial firm in New York.
"In my opinion, the younger generation of Russian Americans vote more liberally, and the older generation tends to be more conservative," she said.
Zaretskaya believes that Russian Americans are not politically active however, because they are still deeply suspicious of "anything communal, and political activity and electoral campaigns are based on communal social activity."
On the eve of the American presidential election, the community's historic attachment to the Republican Party is no longer a given. Russian-American conservatism is rooted in the Cold War, when Republicans were viewed as much tougher on the Soviet Union than Democrats.
"After the collapse of communism this situation slowly changed and the Russian diaspora now votes more or less in the same manner as the rest of American public," said Edward Lozansky, president and founder of the American University in Moscow. "The most successful and well-to-do vote for Republicans while those with lesser income and older ones vote for Democrats, as they are viewed as more likely to fund social programs.
Lozansky, who emigrated to the United States in 1976, describes himself as a conservative Republican. However in an interview with RBTH, he said that he is unable to vote for the Republican candidate Mitt Romney after he labeled Russia the United States "No. 1 geopolitical enemy."
Romney has in recent weeks softened some of his rhetoric on foreign policy and The New York Times reported last week that Romney's son, who was recently in Moscow on business, sent a message to the Kremlin through an intermediary that President Mitt Romney would want "good relations" with Russia.
Even if Obama wins, Lozansky said he is quite pessimistic about U.S.-Russia relations.
"Unfortunately, I do not expect big positive breakthroughs with either Romney or Obama, but with Romney there is a serious danger of escalating into at least a rhetorical, Cold War-style confrontation while with Obama the relations will probably be more civilized."
Although there is little polling data on the preferences of Russian-Americans in 2012, a number of observers of the community said the younger generation is also beginning to break the Republican Party's lock on Russian-American votes, and a significant percentage of them will choose President Obama.
The younger generation thinks differently," said Ilya Galak, 49, the editor of Citizens Magazine on Staten Island, New York. "They studied in American schools and colleges."
Their parents, he said, "are convinced conservatives who, on the one hand, remember life in Soviet Union and, on the other hand, have achieved a lot here so they can compare these two lifestyles and they have chosen conservatism."
Elena Solovyova of Washington, D.C., is a typical first-generation voter.
"We saw firsthand that socialism and collectivism simply do not work and that communist ideals, as inspiring as they may appear at first, lead to ruin, poverty, government control, and oppression," she said. "The term "conservative" is not what comes to mind when I choose to vote Republican in this or prior elections, it is "individualism," "free spirit" and "free enterprise" that the conservative agenda supports."
But Bella Proskurova, a 42-year-old clinical psychologist from New York, said she supports Obama.
"To me it's clear that the Democrats represent the interests of young Americans including Russian Americans," she said.
Anatoly Ryvkin, 45, the publisher and editor-in-chief for the Brighton Beach News, said new arrivals are less enamored of the Republican Party and some come steeped with President Obama's glowing image overseas. The community in the U.S. has changed, he said, with Russian-speaking Muslims from the Soviet republics in Central Asia and young professionals adding to its diversity.
"There is no such thing as a united Russian-American constituency," he said.
Indeed that lack of cohesion was cited by some as a reason for the striking lack of Russian-Americans in political office with the exception of people like David Storobin and Alec Brook-Krasny in the New York state legislature. There are more than 3 million people in the Russian-speaking community, according to the 2008 census, but their political influence appears marginal.
"I think it is due to cultural, religious, ideological differences and other factors separating all 5 waves of Russian emigration," said Lozansky. "The Russian diaspora is not united and therefore cannot offer a strong unified political voice, except probably for the Russian Jewish community, which is united in its support for Israel."
But Elena Staroselskaya, a Washington D.C.-area resident and businesswoman who runs the website www.RussianDC.com, said "Russian-Americans have different opinions but are united in promoting and strengthening U.S.-Russia relations."
November 6, 2012
U.S. sets diplomacy to music in Russia
By Kathy Lally
MOSCOW Russia has been doing its best lately to suppress American influence here, but somehow it must have managed to overlook a woman in a bright red dress, with a commanding voice, operating on behalf of the U.S. State Department.
The woman in the red dress she even had a matching flower in her hair was Maya Azucena, a singer from Brooklyn, N.Y., on a two-week trip with her band. The good news: It's apparently still okay to encourage justice and love, freedom and self-expression in Russia, as long as you do it with a song in your heart.
Azucena performed in Moscow, the Siberian city of Irkutsk and the central Russia cities of Kursk and Orel, wrapping up in Voronezh on Tuesday. She sings rhythm and blues, with some soul, reggae and hip-hop mixed in all quintessentially American and all with a deeply American message.
"My job is to help you recognize your own power to change your own community," Azucena said after a performance at the residence of U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul, where she had an audience of Russians along with a smattering of embassy employees and expats not just listening but up on their feet and moving to her music.
These have been rough times for things American. About a year ago, as he was gearing up his campaign for the presidency, Vladimir Putin began blaming many of Russia's ills on the United States. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton came in for particular abuse Putin accused her of encouraging people to protest against last December's parliamentary elections.
After Putin was elected in March, the rhetoric calmed down. But not for long. In September, officials ordered the U.S. Agency for International Development out of the country. It was accused of interfering in Russia's internal affairs.
The Russian public tends toward the nationalistic, says Robert O. Keohane, a professor of international affairs at Princeton University who has studied anti-Americanism in the world. People generally believe it when they hear other governments are behaving badly, and that is exactly what they have been hearing about the United States, which Russia has criticized over Syria, Libya, missile defense and sticking its nose in other countries' business.
A poll in September by Moscow's independent Levada Center found that the percentage of Russians who liked the United States had dropped to 46 percent, down from 67 percent in the fall of 2011.
But this is a land of contradictions, so don't be surprised that McDonald's restaurants all over the city are forever packed; that so many residents of the remotest towns are wearing jeans, it looks like it must be part of their uniform; that iPhones are to die for and many many people love American music.
A Pew Global Attitudes poll this year found a majority of Russians under age 50 say they like American music, movies and television: 69 percent of the 18-to-29 age group and 56 percent of the 30-to-49 age group.
Over the last year the U.S. Embassy has brought zydeco to Nizhny Tagil, cowboy music to Archangel, gospel to Nizhny Novgorod, Native American/New Age to Yaroslavl, bluegrass to Perm, mariachi to Ussuriysk (that's about 5,600 miles from Moscow) and jazz to various points in between.
Television stations, which often broadcast negative comments about official U.S. policies, find musicians irresistible. One television feature about a visit by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was called "Cultural Reset."
Azucena, who has traveled to Burma, Sri Lanka, China, Honduras and other countries on behalf of the United States, was invited by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, using funds from the State Department's public diplomacy program.
"This is American wealth," McFaul said when he introduced the band. Later, he told them that even skeptics about America said they were moved by the music. "You are true cultural ambassadors," he said.
Human rights are paramount issues, Azucena said in an interview, and she tries to convey their importance in her music. While talk of human rights by an American normally sends Russian officials into paroxysms of anger, Azucena said she has been met with nothing but smiles.
"I have this power," she said, "a microphone in my hand and an audience."
And she sang on, of justice with wings, of love in everything, of feeling good and feeling strong and how everything, everything, everything's gonna be all right.
Russian TV blames Syrian opposition for atrocities, accuses West of complicity
Text of report by Russian official state television channel Rossiya 1 on 5 November
(Presenter) Fighting continues in Damascus and Aleppo. The opposition claims that it is now in control of the Al-Ward oilfield in eastern Syria. The militants are increasingly favouring terrorist attacks similar to today's ones over direct combat.
(Second presenter) Explosives and weapons are still being supplied from Turkey and Middle Eastern monarchies, while militants are showing no mercy to either military personnel or civilians. Our special correspondent Anastasiya Popova is currently in Aleppo, arguably the hottest spot in the world. She has witnessed bloody executions. Here is her report from the combat zone.
(Correspondent) The Free Syrian Army is executing a man suspected of collaboration with the authorities. The militants unload two assault rifle magazines on him.
The growing cruelty and brutality of armed groups is exacerbating the already existing split in the foreign-based opposition. The Turkey-based National Council blames the West for the radicalization of bandits, while this Egyptian businessman thinks that an interested party, the USA, is trying to turn Syria into another Afghanistan, and is being assisted by not only Saudi Arabia and Qatar but also Eastern European countries.
((?Muhammad Selim), captioned as a businessman, with Russian translation superimposed) After joining NATO, they found a way of clearing their warehouses of old Soviet weapons. I know for sure that, for example, Bulgarian and Hungarian firms are in negotiations with Turkish companies, selling them assault rifles, explosives, anti-tank rocket systems, who in turn supply these weapons to militants of the Free Army and other groups. Turkey itself is providing help with communications systems, food, medications, providing logistical support for militants.
(Correspondent) A correspondent from a Lebanese TV channel saw herself how this assistance is delivered to bandits. Her attempt to film the process ended with a broken camera and her three-day arrest by Turkish police.
((?Yumna Fauaz), captioned as a correspondent of the Al-Jadid TV channel, with Russian translation superimposed) Weapons are delivered to the Syrian border by trucks at night. There, militants from various groups are already waiting for them. Turkish army officers are distributing the supplies. They are responsible for coordination, they distribute boxes among them, and then they freely cross the border checkpoint back into Syria.
(Correspondent) Militants rarely engage in direct battles. Their preferred method is terrorist attacks. In Aleppo's central square, they blew up four bomb-packed cars.
This is the interior of one of the oldest hotels in Aleppo, after 1.5 tonnes of explosives blown up outside. The structure still stands, but there is almost nothing left inside. The situation is the same on all 13 floors.
The mayor's office was also blown up. The entire facade has been destroyed. Employees continue to work here, but they have moved to another wing.
This is the highest point in Aleppo, 23 floors high, a tasty morsel for militants. This building comes under fire every day, from several kilometres away and from different directions. The entire wall behind the DShK (Degtyarev-Shpagin heavy machine gun) is riddled with bullet holes.
(Unidentified man, with Russian translation superimposed) We put up these dummies dressed in military uniforms. Snipers start shooting, and we locate them.
(Correspondent) Militants frequently use rocket-propelled shells in Aleppo. They fire on the city's residential areas from a long distance away. Basil was lucky. When a missile hit the house, he was just entering the flat together with his brothers, back from their school.
((?Basil Shaua, a resident of Aleppo, with Russian translation superimposed) This was a bedroom, and the library was over there. There is nothing left of the kitchen too. The balcony collapsed and fell on the cars. There are no military personnel in this area, only civilians. All that remains of that life is this sweater belonging to my young brother. He is in hospital. How can we live now?
(Correspondent, over footage of bodies stacked along a wall and a man with his hands tied behind his back being shot from behind) Militants filmed another mass murder of civilians in Aleppo on a mobile phone. These people were executed without trial, just because they supported the authorities. Even helpless old people were not spared.
Anastasiya Popova, Mikhail Vitkin and Yevgeniy Lebedev reporting for Vesti from Aleppo, Syria.
November 6, 2012
KYRGYZSTAN AND TAJIKISTAN TO BE ARMED ...with Russian money
Russia is desperately trying to retain its clout with Central Asian countries
Author: Kabai Karabekov, Yelena Chernenko, Ivan Safronov, Sergei Strokan
MOSCOW IS TAKING STEPS TO STRENGTHEN ITS POSITIONS IN CENTRAL ASIA
What information is available to this newspaper indicates that
Russia is prepared to spend $1.1 billion on rearmament of the
Kyrgyz military and $200 million on the Tajik regular army.
Dushanbe was also promised $200 million worth of benefits and
privileges in oil deliveries. Experts warn that Moscow is playing
with fire and that consequences of this policy are difficult to
Aware of America's efforts to settle in Uzbekistan, Russia is
strengthening and advancing military-technical cooperation with
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Sources close to the Russian-Tajik
government commission claim that Moscow promised Bishkek $1.1
billion for the regular army. The agreement with the Kyrgyzes was
reached during Deputy Premier Igor Shuvalov's visit to Bishkek in
August and President Vladimir Putin's in September. According to
what information is available at this point, the matter will be on
the agenda of Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev's visit to
Moscow on November 14 and 15.
The matter concerns military support rather than a loan.
Sources within the General Staff say that the assortment of the
military hardware to be included in the program is to be agreed
upon by Russian and Kyrgyz defense ministries by March 2013. The
Kyrgyz military expects the first consignments in summer 2013.
Kyrgyz regular army is considerably weaker than its analogs
in neighbor countries. Atambayev recently said that the 25th
Special Forces Brigade (Scorpio) was the only exception, and only
because it had been trained by NATO instructors. Kyrgyz
artillerymen in the meantime still use the pieces manufactured in
1938 and 1943.
"We do not even have proper uniforms," complained Tokon
Mamytov, Chairman of the parliamentary Defense and Security
Committee. Mamytov said that the list of the hardware Kyrgyz
military needed included "just about everything but satellites and
Bishkek needs light weapons, infantry fighting vehicles,
helicopters, and field hospitals... not to mention ferries,
mortars, and satellite-uplinked radios.
Russia is also prepared to invest $200 million in military-
technical cooperation with Tajikistan. The money in question will
be used in modernization of antiaircraft defense means and repair
of the military hardware in need of maintenance.
It is common knowledge that official Dushanbe would also like
to collect $250 million for the 201st Russian Military Base.
Putin's recent visit to Dushanbe culminated in the agreement to
extend the presence of the Russian base in Tajikistan without any
additional payments. In return, Moscow promised to make life
easier for the Tajiks in Russia and to consider investment in
construction of hydroelectric power plants in Tajikistan.
"Helping Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan modernize their military,
Moscow expects to strengthen the potential of the CIS Collective
Security Treaty Organization in the light of the forthcoming
American withdrawal from Afghanistan," said a source within the
government of Russia. "Moreover, Moscow hopes to prevent the
Americans from strengthening their positions in Central Asia... It
was only recently after all that Bishkek and Dushanbe flirted with
Washington in the hope to lay hands on the weapons and military
hardware withdrawn from Afghanistan. It would have meant American
instructors and technicians. American influence with the region
would have grown."
Experts, however, are wary. "Russia is getting back on the
tracks it followed these last two centuries - under czars and
communists," said PIR-Center expert Vadim Kozyulin. "Success
requires the soft power and the ability to use it. Russia need to
win over the population of Central Asian countries, not just their
Alexei Malashenko of the Carnegie Moscow Center warned that
"... investing unprecedented sums in rearmament of Kyrgyzstan and
Tajikistan, Russia plays an all-or-nothing game. That's a risky
move with consequences that are difficult to predict. Russia
pledges to support two fairly shaky regimes and complicates its
already complicated relations with Uzbekistan."
Malashenko said, "And why is Moscow going for it? It
apparently understands that its economic leverage with the
countries of the region is history.... whereas its principal
rivals i.e. the United States and China expand their influence
with this strategically important region."