Back 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.
The 2012 survey was vastly expanded from the one ten years earlier, and included 176 countries. In 2002, 30% of the world’s countries were more corrupt than Russia, 70% were less corrupt. But by 2012, only 25% of the world’s nations were more corrupt than Russia, while a whopping 75% were less corrupt than Russia. Russia position on the list of nations decreased in both absolute and relative terms. By contrast Nigeria, previously lagging behind almost the entire world, was relatively speaking now vastly improved and much more honest, and most importantly absolutely indistinguishable from Russia. Russia, by contrast, was much more dishonest. So in that way at least, comparing Russia to Nigeria is an insult. To Nigeria.
Enter blogger Mark Adomanis. In a post simply dripping with pro-Kremlin propaganda, Adomanis attempts to attack a fellow blogger who echoed Brin’s comments about Russia and Nigeria being equivalent in terms of corruption.
Amazingly, Adomanis totally ignores the issue of corruption. It is the number two item on the other blogger’s list of points of comparison, which Adomanis republishes but does not translate, and correctly shows that Nigeria and Russia are nearly identical on this point. Of course, Nigeria and Russia are also very similar in that their economies both depend entirely upon the sale of crude oil for their survival. Adomanis gives no context to Brin’s remark and doesn’t even try to provide any link to his readers so they could understand it.
Instead, in the classic manner of a Soviet propagandist, Adomanis tries to distract his readers from the point by focusing on issues that have nothing to do with corruption, like infant mortality, unemployment, life expectancy, literacy and GDP. In these factors, he says, Russia manages to do better than an African state, and this proves Russia isn’t “Nigeria with snow.”
Adomanis does manage to admit in a very backhanded way that unlike Russia, Nigeria’s population is growing rapidly and has now significantly exceeded that of Russia. And his first comparison chart bears this out, showing that there is virtually no difference between the mortality rates of the two countries. He simply ignores the fact that Nigeria’s birth rate is around 40 births per 1,000 people while Russia’s birth rate is around 13, about one-third the rate of Nigeria.
Adomanis then proceeds to show that Nigeria’s rates of unemployment, life expectancy, literacy and GDP are significantly below those of Russia. Based on this, he smugly laughs at those who would mention Nigeria and Russia in the same breath, including especially those in the Russian opposition, whom he ridicules as if he were speaking on behalf of Vladimir Putin. And who is to say he is not?
The U.S. GDP is more than seven times larger than Russia’s. The highest inflation rate in the past two years in the USA is the same as the lowest inflation rate in Russia during that time. America’s population is double that of Russia. On average, Americans live 12 years longer than Russians. Does this mean Russia can’t be mentioned in the same breath as the USA? Does it mean Russia’s places on the U.N. Security Council and the G-8 next to the USA are undeserved, and should be stripped away?
Apparently, Adomanis believes so. And more importantly, he believes that Russia does not need to address its issue of pandemic political and economic corruption, but can instead afford to ignore them because it has a better illiteracy rate than Nigeria.
Sergei Brin, leader of one of the world’s most important companies, begs to differ. And so do we. We don’t think Adomanis understands the first thing about what is important in Russia, nor does he care one whit for the fate of the people of Russia. All he cares about is rationalizing and justifying the actions of the Kremlin, helping it to continue its oppressive rule over Russia’s hapless citizens.
With “friends” like Adomanis, Russia needs no enemies.