More Abject Failure for Putin’s Russia

Better Life Index

What you see above is the visual representation of the Better Life Index generated by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). Click the image to see it full size.

The BLI ranks 34 countries around the world based on 11 basic criteria for quality of life and happiness.  Russia placed a dismal #30:  Only four nations in the survey were worse than Russia when judged across these criteria.  Australia is #1 and the USA is #6 on the survey.

The web page of the OECD allows you to toggle each of the 11 categories to compare performance with that criteria being primary. Toggle civic engagement or environment, and Russia drops to #32. Toggle health, and Russia drops even further,  to #33, nearly the very worst in the entire group.  You can also toggle multiple criteria to create your own standard for what a proper country should be.  Make health, environment, civic engagement and income most important, and Russia is the very worst performer in the entire group, by wide margin. as show below.  In fact, Russia is so bad that its name doesn’t even fully fit on the screen when judged on these four criteria.


Again, you can click the image to see it full size.  The USA has the highest score in the world when judged on these four criteria alone.

Here’s what the OECD days about the critical criteria of income:

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Russia, the average household net-adjusted disposable income is 15 286 USD a year, less than the OECD average of 23 047 USD a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn nine times as much as the bottom 20%.

Russia’s average income level is a shocking $8,000 per year less than the average for the group of 34 countries, and Russia’s wickedly unfair income distribution means that the average income figure for Russia is misleading because so few are at the top, holding so much of the pie.   The USA leads the income criteria by a wide margin,  while Russia’s income level is bested by the likes of Greece, Iceland and Slovenia.

Even in the area of education, where Russians pride themselves on high attainment, Russia score places it in the bottom third of the group with no Eastern European nation below it.

Time after time, when rated by international studies Russia finds itself at the bottom of the list of any group of nations it’s placed with.  On the BLI, Russia was by far the worst-performing country in its region of Eastern Europe. It’s an absolutely disgraceful embarrassment for Russia, and shows that after twelve years of rule by Vladimir Putin the country has made no progress in competing even with Eastern, much less Western, Europe.

Yeltsin Kicks Putin’s Ass

Growth Graph
In 1999, the year before Vladimir Putin ascended to the Russian presidency and the final year of rule by Boris Yeltsin, the Russian economy snapped out of its doldrums and posted impressive growth of 6.4%. The next year, before Putin’s policies could possibly have had any effect, it soared to 10%.

It’s an absolute lie that the Putin economy then took flight and saved Russia from the ravages of Yeltsin.  Under Putin, the average rate of GDP growth has been just 5.1%, considerably less than what Russia enjoyed inYeltsin’s final year, and as Anders Aslund points out in the Moscow Times Putin isn’t responsible for the growth that occurred on his watch. That growth began under Yeltsin, not Putin, and it was the result of rising world oil prices due to a global economic boom.  In the period when Russia’s GDP growth spiked under Putin, 2003-2007, the price of a barrel of crude oil doubled, from $30 per barrel to $60 per barrel. Nothing remotely that dramatic happened under Yeltsin.  In 2009, when the Russian economy collapsed, the price oil fell by half, from $100/barrel to $50/barrel.

When oil prices tumbled in 2009 due to a global economic downturn, Russia saw a massive recession in which GDP constricted by a whopping 7.5%.  As shown in the graph above, in 2001, the first year when Putin’s policies could credibly be said to have come into force, economic growth fell dramatically. It wasn’t until 2003, when the price of oil soared upwards, that growth exceeded Yeltsin’s 1999 pace, and in only four of Putin’s 12 years in power so far has it done so. In ever other year, Putin’s economy lagged behind Yeltsin’s benchmark, sometimes dramatically so.  Russia’s current GDP growth rate is half what it was at the end of Yeltsin’s rule.

Even if you delete 2009 from Putin’s record and consider only the other years, Putin’s average rate of economic growth is just 6.2% per year, still clearly less than what Yeltsin achieved ten years earlier.  As the chart indicates, seven times during the Putin years economic growth has fallen from year to year, while only five times has it risen from year to year.

But you can’t take away 2009. In that year, Russia paid the price for ten years of rule in which Putin failed to ween the nation off its dependence on crude oil and engaged in profligate waste of Russian resources by restarting the cold war and initiating a massive military buildup.

Russia is being egregiously harmed by the rule of Vladimir Putin, not helped. Under Putin, economic growth has been minimized rather than maximized, and the chance to alter Russia’s future has been squandered rather than exploited.

Since 2009, Russian economic growth has never exceeded 4.5%  It fell dramatically in 2012 compared to 2011, and it has fallen again the first two quarters of 2013.  As we’ve previously reported, even officials of the Putin administration itself now admit Russia is mired in yet another recession.

And all of this is perfectly predictable. Putin is not an economist or businessman, he is a proud career KGB spy. He knows nothing about how to run an economy or a business, he was educated in the Soviet Union and taught only how to hate, lie and destroy.

Russia a World Leader in Human Trafficking

The Washington Post reports:

But while other countries are improving, Russia is moving backward. By Russian police estimates, there were 50,000 sex-trafficking victims — the majority of them age 16 or younger — in Moscow in 2007, according to the organization MiraMed. Hundreds of girls have disappeared from orphanages into prostitution, some lured with promises of jobs and others abducted. Many of them are trafficked abroad: The Protection Project, a Washington-based human rights institute, ranks Russia among the top 10 countries of origin for trafficked human beings.

Meanwhile, Russian authorities are methodically dismantling the country’s once-robust civil society. Human rights groups are required to register as foreign agents if they receive foreign assistance, and their leaders are increasingly harassed, hounded and jailed. The U.S. government has financially supported Russian anti-trafficking organizations in the past but can no longer do so because of restrictions enacted in November.

Will President Barack Obama have the courage to stand up to human trafficking in Russia?

Kremlin Declares War on Levada

In the very same week that the Kremlin declared all-out war on Levada,  the last remaining pollster operating in Russia with an independent voice, the Kremlin’s own publication, Russia Beyond the Headlines, featured Levada data prominently in its color insert distributed with the New York Times.  It was yet another bizarre act in the tragicomedy known as Russia.

The May 22nd issue of RBTH had its entire second page plastered with information obtained from Levada regarding Vladimir Putin’s latest purported initiative against corruption.  First a news story by Olga Doronina entitled “Russians see Official’s Money as the Root of All Evil”  featured a  huge color graphic reporting Levada’s poll results concerning the question of whether Putin’s measure to ban foreign ownership of assets by government officials was serious or a sham (the data favored the Kremlin, indicating 58% of Russians thought it was serious, although nearly half that group saw it as merely a way to gain control over wayward officials as opposed to actually purifying them).  Then an op-ed from Georgy Bovt made repeated reference to Levada polling concerning Russian support for the measure.

How is it possible that at one and the same time the Kremlin can be attacking Levada as an unreliable “foreign agent” with the clear possibility that its operations would be shut down and also quoting from Levada as if it were the most reliable source of public opinion information in the country?

Because we’re talking about Russia, that’s why.  Obviously, RBTH was slightly behind the curve and didn’t get wind of the Kremlin’s plans for Levada until its issue had already gone to print.

Oops.  Good luck finding the news story from the NYT insert on the RBTH website. Now that Levada is under attack it seems to have been purged.  Good luck, for that matter, finding reports by RBTH about Putin’s crackdown on Levada.  None of it is anywhere to be found, the whole thing seems to have been swept under the carpet by this neo-Soviet publication.  Weirdly, the Bovt piece was more than a month old, having been sitting on the RBTH website all that time and been published long before RBTH learned Levada was persona no grata, and that’s why it can still be found on the website, apparently.

But surely, RBTH must have known that Levada was a foreign agent all along, didn’t it?  Apparently not, because RBTH found lots and lots of data published by Levada to be helpful to the Kremlin’s cause.  Seven RBTH items in May alone quote Levada.

It’s so typical of Russia for the right hand not to know what the left hand is doing.  RBTH thinks it’s free to use helpful data it finds in Levada reports, hardly suspecting that the data was being produced by a “foreign agent” committed to Russia’s overthrow. Then it finds itself with egg on its face as the news is suddenly announced.

Travel Advice on Russia: Don’t Go!


The graphic above shows the results of a survey of international cities among tourists who have visited them by TripAdvisor.  It shows the worst-performing cities across a series of eight criteria ranging from friendliness of the locals to quality of shopping.

The Russian capital city of Moscow was the very worst in the world in five of the eight categories, second from worst in a sixth and third from worst in a seventh.  The only one of the eight categories in which Moscow wasn’t among the three most wretched nations on the planet was clean streets.  Moscow’s antithesis is Tokyo, which dominates the list of best-performing cities in same way Moscow dominates the worst.

According to Mastercard, Russia doesn’t have a single one of  the top 20 cities of the world for for either tourist arrivals or receipt of tourist dollars.  According to Euromonitor, Moscow ranks #25 in the world for tourist arrivals with less than 4 million per year, while Russia’s second city of St. Petersburg ranks #47 with 2.5 million arrivals. Compare that with Istanbul’s 8 million and Bangkok’s 11 million to see how totally pathetic Russia’s performance really is.

The United States has not one but three cities ranking in the top 20 for international tourist spending:  New York with $20 billion, Los Angeles with $12 billion and Miami with $9 billion.    Russia doesn’t have a single city that is a member of this group.

There’s a simple explanation for all this miserable failure, of course:  Russians hate foreigners, and don’t want them in their country.  In fact, many Russians don’t really want to be there either. Vastly more Russians leave Russia to spend time in foreign countries than foreign tourists arrive in Russia to spend time there.  Russians reject foreign values and they have built a homogenized society that rejects foreign people.  Russians simply don’t care that vast sums of money are squandered in this way, just as they don’t care that their nation is one of the most corrupt on the planet, wasting untold billions more on this folly.

Russia is plagued by horrendous official corruption, which make the police even more dangerous than Russian’s virulent criminals to tourists.  Russia doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase “customer service” and its cuisine is wretched.  Russia has terrifying risks of airline,  fire and highway disasters, and it is riddled with terrorist activity.  By contrast, Russia offers almost nothing in the way of blockbuster tourist attractions beyond a few museums loaded with looted art and a few unusual churches.

And by visiting Russia, tourists lend support to a venal, anti-democratic KGB regime that is obliterating basic Western values.

So the advice on travel to Russia is simple:  DON’T GO!

Zigfeld’s Latest

Over on the powerful and influential American Thinker website, Kim Zigfeld has two recent pieces shedding further light on the outrageous misconduct of the Putin regime.

In the first, she reveals a breathtakingly united barrage of criticism from not one, not two, but three different highly respected international organizations aimed at Putin’s obscene crackdown on the press in his neo-Soviet state.

In the second, she reveals horrifying new evidence of the failure of the Obama “reset” policy towards Russia, including that which indicates the Kremlin knew far more about the Boston attacks than it cared to tell U.S. law enforcement.


Elder and Ioffe, the Laurel & Hardy of Russia Reporters

There they go again.

Julia Ioffe and Miriam Elder, the two worst Russia reporters on the planet, are at it once again.

On her Twitter feed, Elder was shocked to find Russians making Georgian wine, that is until a Moscow Times reporter explained to her that “Saperavi” does not refer to a wine being Georgian, it refers to a kind of grape that anyone can grow and make wine with. It was as if she had accused California of cheating consumers by selling wine made from grapes they also use in France.


Interestingly, as an aside, what’s actually correct is that Georgian mineral water, the famous Borjomi brand, is no longer truly Georgian though made in Georgia, because the company has been purchased by Russia (the reason it was suddenly deleted from the Russian blacklist).

Then Ioffe reported on the New Republic website that Monday’s protest had begun with a moment of silence to commemorate the anniversary of the Bolotnaya uprising a year earlier.  In fact, as the LA Times reported, the moment of silence was for a worker who was killed while setting up the staging for the Monday protest.

This is the same comical pair who breathlessly reported a year ago that the protest movement was sweeping Russia and changing it forever.  Instead, what the world actually saw was the movement wither on the vine.  Barely a quarter the support is now turning out for public demonstrations, and not one real political objective has been achieved.  Navalny’s speech before the most recent throng was disjointed, incoherent and uninspiring to say the least, but we still don’t hear anything remotely like the full truth from either Elder or Ioffe, much less to we hear anything remotely like a mea culpa for past misreporting.

With “friends” like these, Russia needs no enemies.

Mark Adomanis Twists and Perverts Facts beyond All Recognition

OB-HY084_0324br_F_20100324105727Back in 2002 Sergei Brin (pictured above), the founder of Google, was interviewed by the Red Herring technology website.  He made some tough comments about Russia. He said Russia was like “Nigeria with snow” and was run by “a bunch of criminal cowboys.” He worried that it was very dangerous to have a country like Russia maintain so much influence in world energy markets.  Brin had seen how Russia operated up close and personal when his company tried to do business there, and he was appalled.

When he compared Russia to Nigeria, Brin was referring to corruption.   In 2002, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index placed Russia tied for a totally shocking #71 out of 102 nations in the world when ranked for political and economic corruption.  Only 31 countries, in other words, had more corruption than Russia.

Brin actually wasn’t correct, though, in comparing Russia to Nigeria at that time.  In 2002, Nigeria was #101 on the list of 102 countries, nearly at the bottom and much worse than Russia.  The correct African country to have compared Russia to at that time was Zimbabwe, Tanzania or Ivory Coast, all of which were tied with Russia on the TICPI.  Russia was also tied with the likes of lowly Hondoras.

But fast-forward to 2012, and things are quite different.  In fact,  Brin looks rather prescient now.   The 2012 CPI places Russia tied again with Hondoras, this time  for #133 on the list, while Nigeria is right behind at #139, tied with Pakistan. Only one point separates the scores of Nigeria and Russia on the most recent survey.  They are, in terms of corruption, to all intents and purposes identical.

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Putin Sings a Siren Song

If Vladimir Putin is our ally in the struggle against Islamic extremism, then why in the days following the brutal, cowardly attack on the Boston Marathon is his government praising and cooperating with Hezbollah, one of the world’s leading Islamic terror groups?

The answer is pretty clear:  Putin isn’t our ally.  To the contrary, he concealed vital information about the Boston bombers from U.S. law enforcement before the attack, and afterwards he has been consistently obstructing the investigation.

And the reason for that is clear:  Putin wants the West to be victimized by Islamic terror, He wants the Middle East in turmoil, because turmoil promotes rising oil prices, and that lines Putin’s pockets.  What’s more, Putin spent his entire life in the KGB learning how to hate and destroy the USA, and you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.