Over on the mighty Pajamas Media megablog, LR publisher and founder Kim Zigfeld reviews the current public battle between Russian “prime minister” Dmitri Medvedev and “president” Vladimir Putin, emphasizing that Medvedev is not the liberal savior of Russian politics but instead just another corrupt flunkie of the Putin regime out for all he can get.
As shown by the chart above, the Wall Street Journal reported this week that the United States of America is about to overtake Russia as the world’s #1 producer of oil and gas. Simultaneously, Russian “Prime Minister” Dima Medvedev penned a long tract in Vedemosti in which he admitted that Russia is descending into neo-Soviet economic stagnation. And the WSJ reported that Putin’s response to this nightmare is stunningly inappropriate, the exact opposite of what he should be doing: Instead of pursuing policies to encourage foreign investment, Putin is adopting measures to explicitly choke it off. And he’s embarking on massive new programs to vastly increase military spending while cutting the delivery of basic services to Russian citizens.
Russia is being decimated by the USA in its own bastion of strength, fossil fuels. Nothing could more powerfully express the total blindness and failure of Vladimir Putin as an economics manager. Russia has seen its economic growth rate spiral relentlessly downward, and now it stands on the precipice of a double-dip recession. Even Putin’s own PM admits that Putin’s policies are failing. And Putin’s response is neo-Soviet crackdown rather than innovation.
Russia is doomed.
Last week, Russian “Prime Minister” Dima Medvedev published a photograph on Instagram of the new “Ice Palace” in Sochi, Russia, which will be the focal point of the 2014 Winter Games. The photo showed the palace at the top of a steep hill mounted by an enormous flight of stairs.
In response, a commenter asked Medvedev: “И как люди передвигающиеся на колясках должны преодолевать эти 100500 ступенек?” In other words, how would a disabled person grapple with such an obstacle.
It was a legitimate question. All across Russia, disabled citizens face relentless discrimination and a near total lack of accessibility, with stone-faced indifference from most of their fellow citizens. Such an attitude is flatly barred by the Olympic Charter, which requires accessibility, and in fact Russia is obligated to host the parallel “paralympics” along with the main show, meaning it would play host to dozens of disabled athletes.
When Medvedev did not respond, we followed up with him on Twitter. We stated: “You were asked on Instagram how a wheelchair-bound fan would navigate all those stairs. What is your answer?”
Medvedev didn’t respond to us, either. But one “ndennisv” from San Jose, California sure did. He stated: “Dumb question. Whoever asked that is a comlete [sic] dimwit. They are supposed to use a ramp or an elevator.”
Welcome to Russia!
Ask an honest question, and get your head bitten off! In fact, Medvedev’s photograph does not reveal any ramp or elevator which could be used by a handicapped person to circumvent the stairs, so the question was very far from being “dumb.”
After a laborious saga of back-and-forth with “ndennisv” following his gratuitous insult, a saga which included plenty more insults, we finally obtained from him a picture of the Ice Palace showing the area to the left of the stairway, which was not apparent in Medvedev’s photograph. In this photograph, it can clearly be seen that there are both ramps and elevators available to the disabled to reach the Ice Palace entrance.
Most people, of course, wouldn’t follow up as we did. Most people, after being ignored and then gratuitously insulted, would simply drop the matter and assume the Ice Palace was just one more example of Russia’s brutal disregard of the interests of its disabled citizens. And they’d come away, of course, with a pretty bitter attitude towards Russia.
Needless to say, “ndennisv” refused to acknowledge that Russia had any problem whatsoever with its treatment of the disabled. In fact, he acted like ramps at the Ice Palace prove their are ramps everywhere, in typical neo-Soviet fashion. What could have been PR win for Russia, in which “ndennisv” promptly and cordially provided an answer to our question on Medvedev’s behalf, and simultaneously acknowledged that Russia has much more work to do beyond the Ice Palace, turned into a confirmation of all that is thought ill of Russia.
This little exchange is, in other words, Russia in perfect microcosm. It is why Russia has been forced to hire Western PR teams to try to battle against the relentlessly negative images that Russians create for themselves, a battle they cannot hope to win because of Russia’s boundless energy and productivity in this regard. It illustrates why it was such a mistake for Russians to seek to host the games, which willy give the world that much more opportunity to experience this brutality up close and personal.
Another perfect example is homosexuals. How is it possible that the Kremlin could be so benighted as to fail to recognize that it needed to wait to commence its crackdown on gays until the Olympics and FIFA world cup proceedings had been completed? By pushing ahead to early, Russians stripped billions of dollars of public relations gold out of their coffers, and turned these expensive events into negatives. And all this is happening just as the Russian economy heads for a double-dip recession!
Welcome to Russia!
Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported [Russian-language link] on August 17, 2012, that the Russian military is 600 million rubles in the red to its gas and electric suppliers, and as a result thousands of military personnel and their families will go without heat this winter — including those in frozen wastelands like Murmansk where plunging temperatures can be fatal. The Secretary of Housing for the Moscow Region Herman Elyanushkin is quoted as stating that 40% of Moscow-based soldiers and their families had no heat last winter, and the situation was likely to be repeated this year.
The reason for the frozen soldiers is, according to the military, frozen funding in Moscow. In addition to a lack of money to pay for fuel, there is also a lack of funds to maintain heating equipment, so boilers are breaking down and not being repaired or replaced. The military claims it needs the whopping sum of an additional 70 billion rubles to properly heat the residences of its soldiers and their families. The Kremlin, it seems prefers to devote funds to building new and better nuclear weapons, and is prepared to watch Russian soldiers and their families freeze. The question of why Russia’s supposedly booming economy doesn’t have enough funds for both projects remains unasked.
Just this month alone, the value of the Russian currency is down 5%. But that is nothing.
Russia’s stock exchange has just entered bear market territory. It is down a whopping 15% this month alone. The month isn’t even over yet, of course.
And then there’s capital flight. Last year, Russia bled money at the terrifying rate of over $20 billion per quarter, racking up over $80 billion in total by year’s end. This year? Russia has seen $42 billion in capital flight in just the first four months of this year alone! In other words, Russia’s rate of capital flight in 2012 is nearly double what it was in 2011.
Putin has placed his nation in a terrifying vortex of failure.
On the one hand, Russians see economic crisis in Europe and they believe, quite rightly, that this crisis will severely impair European demand for Russian oil and gas. Since that is the bulwark of the Russian economy, the value of Russia’s stock market is immediately obliterated, and nobody needs rubles to buy anything.
On the other hand, Russians see Putin’s return to power as “president for life” seriously restricting the sort of liberties that are necessary for business to thrive, and they realize that “more of the same” only means that Russia’s life-threatening problem with corruption will be unchanged. As a result, Russians conclude that they must remove their assets to foreign shores where the prospect of utilization and safety is far better.
Recent opinion polls show that Russians are terrified of what lies before them, so much so that they are even turning on Putin himself. This means a vicious cycle will result, with Putin needing to crack down ever harder in order to maintain his power, breeding even more mistrust and economic disaster. But if the people of Russia are so foolish as to hand unlimited power to a proud KGB spy, who can say they do not deserve this pernicious fate?
Georgy Bovt, writing in the Moscow Times, explains how the Kremlin has utterly obliterated the last vestiges of democracy in Russia and rendered the country a nation of helpless, bleating sheep, just as in Soviet times. Welcome back to the USSR!
In the wake of protests in December and February, the authorities made concessions to the opposition by announcing a host of political reforms before the March presidential election. The law to ease the registration of new political parties, intended to liberalize the political process, was passed quickly. But every other amendment proposed by the opposition was ignored, including the two most important: the ability for parties to form coalitions prior to elections and the demand to lower the barrier for parties to gain seats in the State Duma. At present, that barrier stands at 5 percent, and voters who support the smaller parties risk not only having no representation in parliament, but also seeing their votes effectively awarded to the winning party. The result will be a major “Balkanization” process in which dozens of new parties are formed but are rendered useless.
Then there is the bill to return direct gubernatorial elections.
The response of the New York Times editorial page to the shockingly reckless open-microphone gaff recently committed by U.S. President Obama in Seoul, South Korea, speaking to Russian’s sham “president” Dima Medvedev, was a new low in the naked, shameless partisanship of the Gray Lady for the Democrats.
While admitting that Putin’s Russia is an “unsavory player” who is guilty of “unconscionable” support for Syria, the editorial does nothing but criticize Republican Mitt Romney’s analysis of Russia while praising the policy of Obama.
Not one single word of criticism — not one single word — is reserved for Obama.
The paper does not care to notice how Obama was suckered by Medvedev into treating him like a real president for four years, only to have the Kremlin laugh in his face and openly admit that Putin was always in charge and would be president for life.
It doesn’t care to notice that on Obama’s watch a proud KGB spy who hates America was returned to power in a landslide.
It can’t suggest one single thing Obama could have done differently to make Russia less “unconscionable” in Syria and other hotspots around the world or to make Russia less “unsavory” at home, where it is liquidating American values left, right and center.
The NYT stands permanently discredited if it cannot find even one aspect of Obama’s Russia policy wanting.
Both Russian “President” Dima Medvedev and Russian “Prime Minister” Vladimir Putin attended church services on Russian Orthodox Christmas, which occurs on January 7th. But very few of their fellow citizens followed their lead. A shocking 90,000 people did so in Moscow, less than half the number that went to church in St. Petersburg, a city one-half Moscow’s size. And across the country in Russia, just 2 million people went to church — barely more than 1% of Russia’s population. Nearly 100,000 security forces were marshaled to keep these worshipers in line, lest the church’s words in support of the protest movement lead to Russians getting out of hand.
It appears, then, that very little has changed in Russia since Soviet times. The country is ruled by a proud KGB spy and the vast majority of Russians reject religion. Those who do not are closely supervised by governmental forces. If there is one change, it is that now Russia’s rulers rather than seeking to wipe out the church are instead seeking to manipulate it for their own purposes. Thus, even though Patriarch Kirill warned the Kremlin to heed the concerns of the protesters, he also issued a stern warning to the protesters: “If demonstrations ahead of the 1917 revolution had ended in the expression of peaceful protests and had not led to a bloody revolution and a fratricidal war, Russia would have had a population of more than 300 million and would have challenged or maybe even surpassed the United States from the point of view of economic development.”
John Helmer, one of the longest-serving foreign journalists in Russia, has been booted out of Russia just like Luke Harding not so long ago (Harding has just released a book detailing his horrific torture by the Kremlin maniacs who feared his reporting). Helmer, at Dances with Bears, has long been one of our favorite bloggers, and we condemn the cowardly denizens of the Kremlin who, in the run-up to the parliamentary elections, are obviously engaged in a frenzied effort to clamp down on the last vestiges of truth and dissent in the country.