Saturday, January 2, 2010
This blog is dedicated to the past rather than the present. However, every once and a while, the present illuminates the past rather than vice-versa. Here are a few, short glimpses of the Russian present, as seen through the eyes of the conservative British organ, the Economist.
Economist, 31 October 2009. The Estonian Exception.
Alone among the three Baltic states, Estonia seems to be poised for economic growth and unification with the European Union. It boasts low governmental debt, low inflation, faithful adherence to European Modernization projects, etc. Lithuanian and Latvia are in much worse shape. But all three countries suffered double digit drops in GDP this year.
Economist, 31 October 2009. NATO and Russia.
Russia is conducting large-scale war games to send a message to its NATO and its immediate members in particular. Apparently Russia didn’t think its invasion of Georgia in 2008 got the message across to the 12 NATO members that were once communist. NATO has, of course, ignored many of Russia’s geopolitical concerns. However, NATO has, according to the Economist, explicitly discounted the possibility of war with Russia, avoided any formal military contingency plan for defending the Baltic Republics, avoided military drills in new member states, and helped Russia to modernization and professionalize its armed forces.
Economist, 14 November 2009. A Birth Defect: Demography in the Balkans. Birth rates throughout the Balkans are collapsing, while abortion rates and emigration is rising.
Economist, 14 November 2009. Cracked Up; The Far Right in Russia. Neo-fascists in Russia such as the group Russian Mode remain a serious threat to many groups within Russia, including Jews, national minorities, and immigrants. The neo-fascists have killed (even beheaded) victims. They have also co-opted a new, November 4 “National Unity Day.” They have also begun to turn against the government, which they see as aligned to many of the forces they oppose. For this reason, the Russian government has begun a relatively systematic prosecution of violent neo-fascists.
Economist, 28 November 2009. Russian Modernization: Dimitry Medvedev’s Building Project.
Dimitry Medvedev, has made modernization, as opposed to stability, the Russian government’s new watchword. Medvedev says he wants reform, liberalization, a turn away from a “commodity-based economy,” business incubators at various universities, and new industries such as nanotechnology and nuclear-powered spaceships. The Economist believes this is mere rhetoric, and that Medvedev is Putin’s tool. The system remains awash in governmental corruption and oppression. Further, the Economist believes that Medvedev and Putin have no real plan for the future of the Russian economy. The Russian GDP shrank by 8 percent this past year, more than any other G8 country, and wages are now falling. Russia maintains a large reserve—the equivalent of $430 billion as opposed to the $3 billion that Gorbachev had in 1991—and income from oil. But Putin’s attempt to revive “Soviet symbols, lifestyles, and incomes” may not lead anywhere. In fact, the Economist maintains that the current political-economic regime in Russia has a vested interest in the economic status quo, since it gathers rent from the current economic players, regardless of how inefficient they are or become.
Economist. 7 November 2009. Frozen Diplomacy: Russia and Britain. Britain and Russia continued to maintain relatively frosty relations. Britain continues to formally request that Andrei Lugovoi be extradited in the matter of Alexander Litvinkenko’s suspected murder in Lindon in 2006. Other sources of tension include Britain’s outspoken criticism of Russia during the Georgian War, and “rough treatment” of one of its principle investors in Russia, BP. The Economist believes that France and Germany and Italy maintain more cordial relations with Russia as a result of their oil dependence. Notwithstanding the diplomatic tension between the two countries, 250,000 Russians continue to live in Britain.