You Can’t Fire Me – I Quit: The Canonizing of Alexei Kudrin

Uncle Volodya says, "They say the only sure things in life are death and taxes. Kudrin wants me to increase one of them."

Never attribute to malice, we’re told, that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. Nobody seems to be sure exactly who said it first, and although most commonly linked to a Robert A. Hanlon, many believe it originated with controversial and influential American science-fiction author Robert A. Heinlein. Whatever you believe, you’ll probably go through life with fewer stress-related health problems if you simply assume that people who are wrong are just stupid, and that they meant well.

Pretty much defining that genre is Dmitry Travin’s apocalyptic “Kudrin’s Warning“, for Open Democracy.  The one tickle of uncertainty is that Travin is a modernizer and reformer, anointed for his commitment to making Russia more like a liberal western democracy with broad private ownership of resources and infrastructure. So maybe he writes as he does out of malice. All I can say is, it certainly reads like stupidity. Well, let’s go through it together – see what you think.

What I think is that this is the beginning of the canonization of Kudrin. Never ones to pass up an opportunity to point at Russia and shout, “My God!! Can you believe how stupid that was??” the western media seems poised to once again shape the narrative. Take a memo, world – Alexei Kudrin was not only the most brilliant economist and financial wizard Russia has ever had, his forced resignation due to the shortsighted ideology of his political masters – thrice ungrateful considering Kudrin was the architect of Russia’s present prosperity – will surely result in disaster. Russia, in short, is playing Russian Roulette with its future.

We’re treated early to an example of Travin’s wit (speaking of Russian Roulette) in his description of the legendary exercise. It springs, according to Travin, from Russian romantic legend of Tsarist times. If so, it springs from a romantic legend that is heavy on romance and light on basic knowledge of firearms. Again according to Travin, one “twirls the barrel round several times, and puts the gun to one’s head”. Presumably, this will confuse the bullet, or it might if you could twirl the barrel on a revolver, but in fact you spin the cylinder so that the hammer does not fall on the chamber in which you just loaded the bullet, which comes out the barrel. The barrel is fixed in place, and does not twirl or rotate, or anything that could be so described. You could, theoretically, “twirl” the entire revolver if you inserted your finger in the trigger guard – but it would be difficult to imagine how that might introduce an element of chance into shooting yourself.

Mr. Travin goes on to blithely inform us that although no historical sources confirm the origins of any such game in Russia, it is likely to be true because it dovetails so neatly with “traditional ideas of Russia as a place where things were always so bad that people were happy to lose their lives”.

Makes you wonder why German Army Group North ran up against a brick wall in the siege of Leningrad, doesn’t it? People who allegedly were happy to lose their lives held out against a superb army for better than 870 days; one of the longest sieges in history. Odd behaviour for people with a death wish, I’d have thought; you’d expect them to throw the gates wide and shout, “Hey! You fucking sausage-eating kraut squarehead duraks, come in and kill us!! I can’t wait!!!” Similarly, when the forces of Alexander occupied Paris in 1814 after snapping at Napoleon’s heels throughout his retreat – which reduced the Grand Armée to less than a quarter its original strength – it was presumably owing to a fit of pique at the Emperor for failing to grant them the peace of death. Fast-forwarding to today, Travin himself tells us Kudrin’s departure had its roots in his disagreement with Medvedev over “a programme of increasing social and military expenditure”. What does a country of eager suicides need with a bigger military to defend it? Try not to be stupider than nature intended.

In fact, the earliest recorded mention of the term “Russian Roulette” was in a short story of the same name published in January 1937 – in English – by an American magazine, Collier’s Weekly, which went out of business in 1957. No historical record at all suggests Russians were so miserable at that or any other time that an opportunity to snuff it was welcomed with relief. The last Tsar was executed in 1918, nearly 20 years before the Collier’s story was published.

Anyway, I spent much longer on that than I intended; we want to talk about Kudrin. But that little vignette, I think, establishes early in the game what Travin’s views are and what they are based on – a willingness to say anything about Russia that is unfavourable regardless its provenance, and a bad case of capitalist/corporatist envy.

So, without further ado, on to The Brilliance Of Kudrin. I don’t mean to sound sarcastic, because Kudrin did in fact see Russia through a lengthy period of prosperity. But in the end, he’s a Russian economist whose skills are rated highly by the west; rather more highly since he departed from service in the Russian government and started to criticize it. Are we acquainted with other Russian economists who are admired by the west and who trot out jukebox rants against the Russian government whenever somebody says, “Say -that guy looks like a western journalist”? Sure we are. Vladimir Mau, crown prince of fiscal folly, for one. Yevgeny Yasin, for another, who predicted in 2003 that Khodorkovsky’s arrest would cast a pall of darkness over Russian investment; that long-term prospects were certain to deteriorate. That didn’t happen, of course. Oh, and one of my favourite boobs that isn’t attached to Keira Knightley – Yevsei Gurvich. Mr. Gurvich predicted in 2007 that oil (Urals Crude, to be specific) would be down to $50.00 per barrel by 2010; those high prices just couldn’t continue. As a consumer of gasoline myself, I wish he was right, but he was off by about $30.00 per barrel on average. I daresay we will catch Mr. Kudrin in a few…inconsistencies. Not to mention Mr. Travin, a fellow economist.

But first, let’s hold a finger to the winds of western hype. What does the west say about Kudrin’s “resignation”? (that’s how they say it when you were ordered to resign, which some people have difficulty in distinguishing from being fired, and I would be among them) Well, the Wall Street Journal – a somewhat….conservative source – says Kudrin was fired, and that he was “dressed down before state-run television for taking a stance against [the President’s] policies”. They go on to say that Mr. Kudrin’s departure will “likely worry foreign investors in Russia, who had regarded Mr. Kudrin as a guardian of Russia’s fiscal responsibility for more than a decade.” Would that be the same guardian of fiscal responsibility who presided over alleged capital flight of $21 Billion in the first quarter of 2011, owing to political concerns that spooked investors, and over increased use by companies of domestic debt to repay foreign borrowing? Because that’s how the Wall Street Journal characterized the situation in Russia only last April. In fact, slobbering about Russian corruption, thievery and all-round bottom-of-the-barrel badness rises to the level of popularity in the Wall Street Journal, and did so unabated while Kudrin was Finance Minister – until his resignation. Then, since he could be cast as a lonely but defiant resister against the bloody juggernaut of state power, he was fitted for a halo. Have a look back through the Wall Street Journal for the last decade, and see how many articles you can find praising Kudrin for his fiscal genius, pre-resignation. How about this one? Oh, nope, sorry; it says Russia “must overcome a reputation for widespread corruption, poor infrastructure  and a murky legal system. And that will mean implementing institutional reforms and improving the business environment — measures the government has long discussed but never carried out.” What? the landscape-altering Kudrin failed to improve the business environment? Well, can the Wall Street Journal point to any successes at all under Kudrin? Apparently not. If you google any combination of “Wall Street Journal” and “Russia” and “Kudrin” and “Success”, you get a flurry of recent articles referring to Kudrin’s firing (or resignation, if you like that better) and a lot of vicarious gnashing of teeth about how this spells big problems for Russia. My own country’s “National Post“, usually only slightly less hysterical than the Wall Street Journal and sometimes more so, emphatically agrees Kudrin was the real jewel in the Kremlin crown, and dishes the gory details under the lurid headline, “Russian Finance Chief Revolts Over Putin Presidency Plot“. I particularly liked the delicate way they handled the issue of Putin/Medvedev’s popularity; “Although opinion polls show they are both much more popular than any other Russian politicians, and Putin is all but certain to win a six-year term in March, many Russians show signs of impatience with the lack of progress on democracy. ‘How much more can you take? Yet again there will be nothing, everything will stay the same. We only get empty promises,’ said retired factory worker Nikolai, in the village of Titov northeast of Moscow.” Got that? A solid majority of Russians view the return of either Putin or Medvedev to leadership positively, but that doesn’t matter because in a real democracy, the opinion of a malcontent minority that feels ill-used is the deciding factor in presidential elections.

Welcome to Spinland, where the guy who really didn’t do much at all to improve Russia’s financial state over the last decade – really, they just lucked out on the price of oil, a child could have done it – suddenly more or less invented fiscal responsibility, and now that he’s gone, disaster bursts into the enormous vacuum created by his leaving. Any truth to it? Let’s see.

Going back to the heart of the Global Financial Crisis – arguably Kudrin’s greatest test – it’s hard to say. There can be little argument that Russia was better prepared than most for the crisis and weathered it better than most, bouncing back to profitability quickly. How much of that was due to Kudrin’s stewardship? Some, certainly. But Kudrin couldn’t make policy on his own, and his recommendations would have to be passed or rejected by first Putin, and later Medvedev. Is the person who approves a sound policy as wise as its author? That, also, is difficult to say, although examples abound of governments that did not listen to good advice, and came to grief as a result. Travin includes an interesting example – Boris Fyodorov’s resignation in 1994, over policy differences with Yeltsin, who wanted to simply print more money.

Any fool knows that printing more money is not the answer to a financial crisis; the Germans tried that, and ended up with a Mark so devalued that it took a barrowload to buy a sack of flour. But for me, the interesting thing was the reversal of roles on the part of the west. Although the Finance Minister took a principled stand and resigned when pressured to do something stupid, who from that period is remembered as the Savior of Russia, the progressive genius who took Russia to the brink of a functioning democracy? Fyodorov? Hardly. We could do a name-recognition poll using the names “Fyodorov” and “Yeltsin”. But I think we’re agreed there wouldn’t be a lot of point to such an exercise. Who’s remembered as the great reformer who pulled Russia from the collapsing ruin of the Soviet Union? That’s right: Boris Yeltsin.

Let’s just be sure we have that straight. Finance Minister takes principled stand, President ignores his advice, country falls apart. President who plunged ahead on his own and handed a nation on the ropes to his successor is remembered as a “great, if flawed” leader who made mistakes, but whose love for Russia could never be doubted. Much like the introduction hinted at – short on malice, long on stupidity. Oh, except for the stupidity; don’t put that in. Fast-forward again to today. Finance Minister takes principled stand. President disagrees, Finance Minister is sacked. This time, though, the President is a fool, and the Finance Minister is the glue that shakily held the country together. Now, it must disintegrate.

I don’t know why such a simple formula is so difficult to grasp – western approbation for the accomplishments of a Russian usually indicates his/her degree of usefulness as a propaganda instrument, or signals an achievement by him/her which damaged Russia. It doesn’t hold true in every case – the west is quite fond of Maria Sharapova, for example, although her press tends to highlight the opinion that she got nothing of her athletic ability from Russia, having learned tennis in the United States – but it’s accurate often enough to show a pattern.

Which brings us back to Alexei Kudrin. In 2005, Kudrin locked horns with Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, saying “the government is making stupid mistakes” (heard that somewhere, recently?). Fradkov wanted to put more money into pensions and public sector pay. Kudrin argued that it would “stoke inflation”. Was he right? I’d have to say not even close; the historic inflation rate looks pretty flat to me. In fact, it tumbled right after Kudrin’s tantrum, falling steadily until the onset of the Global Financial Crisis (graph defaults to 2008; you’ll have to set the beginning date back to 2005). But as recently as this past June, Kudrin championed investment in pensions and forcing companies to contribute to social insurance savings, announcing that “this is the government demonstrating it can correct its mistakes”. Confused? Me, too. I thought it was Kudrin who argued against putting more money into pensions, probably because it was Kudrin who argued against putting more money into pensions. Review of Travin’s article reveals that Medvedev wanted to increase teachers’ salaries to a par with the commercial sector, and increase pensions. Kudrin disagreed. Remember what happened the last time? Kudrin was wrong, in the sense that he was all the way across town from right. He thought Russia should be putting money away for a rainy day, because those high oil prices just couldn’t last – when Russia already had the third-highest cash reserves in the world – and the old people could just suck it up. Now he’s singing the same song again, perhaps forgetting he extolled the benefit of pension reform as recently as last June. Maybe it’s just me, but he’s starting to sound like Mitt Romney. Maybe you noticed that quote from the angry factory worker in Titov, who snarled that Russians would get nothing and there would be no change. He perhaps didn’t notice that the minimum wage more than doubled during Putin’s tenure, as did pensions. And Kudrin fought those increases tooth and nail. Then cited them as example of the government demonstrating it could correct its mistakes. Which it actually didn’t make, although such a mistake was Kudrin’s recommendation.

If you read a little further down in the article from the last link, you’ll get a better idea why the west has a heart-on for Kudrin. He’s a tireless advocate for privatization, private investment and….wait for it….selling of controlling stakes in state companies.

There are two kinds of private investment in Russia that might be interested in controlling stakes in Russian state companies. One is very wealthy Russians who could afford it. The western press calls them oligarchs, and generally rates them as robber barons and pirates unless they live in England or are named “Khodorkovsky”. I can just see the press releases if the Russian government sold GAZPROM to a Russian oligarch: “MORE MONEY FOR PUTIN’S RETIREMENT FUND: PUTIN STEERS SWEETHEART DEAL TO BILLIONAIRE BUDDY!!!” The other possibility is western interests. Remember Bill Browder, and his formula for making money in Russia? Keep in mind that the west approved and approves of Browder’s conduct and continues to back him against Russia with the Sergei Magnitsky Law. Would it be smart, do you think, to sell controlling interests in major state industries to westerners? With a view to such a transaction supporting Russian national interests?

If you do, maybe we ought to take a look at why state control of industry is so bad in the first place. As an example, let’s look at the scare the lending industry gave the USA in 2008, when deregulation and unscrupulous lending practices led to the collapse of the housing bubble and precipitated the Global Financial Crisis. Two of the worst offenders were mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. What did the government do to stop the free-fall that threatened to drag the whole country into the abyss? Sold them to Russian private investors, of course. No, I was kidding; the government nationalized them. Assumed state control. Although both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were GSE’s (Government Sponsored Enterprises), both were publicly-traded companies since the late 1960’s.

In order for oil prices to ruin Russia, they would have to go down to less than $70.00 a barrel and stay there for nearly two years. Do you think that’s going to happen? Really? I’ll tell you when you can start getting ready to dance on Russia’s grave because of low oil prices – when you can convince Conoco-Phillips and Chevron-Texaco and Exxon-Mobil that rock-bottom oil prices for that long are worth it. Good luck with that. When you see signs that the world is ready to switch to green energy from petroleum, start tolling the bell for Russia. Until then, canonizing Kudrin is simply another attempt to turn public opinion in Russia against Putin and United Russia. And if Russians paid any attention to western attempts to influence their behaviour and voting preferences, it might work.

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65 Responses to You Can’t Fire Me – I Quit: The Canonizing of Alexei Kudrin

  1. kievite says:

    The whole story looks strange. While embarrassing for Medvedev, in a way this is a slap for Putin too, implicit critique of his choice of Medvedev. I think it somehow is connected with the growing influence of the Russia banking elite, the same process that took place in the USA since 1970th.

    Finance ministers are usually well trained to control their emotional outbursts🙂. So it might be just a pretext to resign, as the one who lost competition for the post of prime-minister under Putin (and that might be the second time in row as he was another friend of Putin from his Saint-Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak’s administration days). Also his tenure was really long — 11 years — according to Wikipedia “He was appointed Finance Minister on 28 May 2000, and has held the post ever since, making him the longest-serving Finance Minister in post-Soviet Russia…” So he might be psychologically ready to try something new.

    Still it is very strange that he made such a statement in the USA. Not very diplomatic. And a very strange way for a professional government bureaucrat to reject a job under the new prime minister. As if he has some important force behind him (banking lobby?). Also he made himself instantly marketable for some International financial organization position. May be that was the idea as he does not see for himself a suitable domestic role and being a darling of western media has great visibility outside Russia.

    Another strange thing is that this “leading liberally minded politician” is the one who launched Stabilization fund. Isn’t “free market” in its infinite self-regulating wisdom represnts a better solution for any liberally minded (aka Gaidar/Chubaitis minded) economist?

    In his other actions he was pretty much traditional pro-financial oligarchy “Thatcher liberal”: supported cutting government, increased retirement age (which in Russia mean semi-abolition of pensions for male part of the population due to lower life expectancy), cutting social programs, etc. Althouth I remember seeing an interesting exchange between Kudrin and another “great liberally minded economist” Lawrence “Rubin’s Boy” Summers. I think it was it Davos conference about role of private equity and Sovereign funds in global economics in 2007 or so. Summers advocated regulating activities of Sovereign Funds. Kudrin sarcastically noted that the USA did not obey this behavior during Yeltin’s privatization implying that Larry is a hypocrite advocating double standards, which of course he always was.

    • marknesop says:

      You know, the angle about increasing pensionable age cutting some men out of the field because they don’t live long enough never occurred to me. That’s interesting. I didn’t know until this story that Russian retirement age is among the youngest of the developed countries. I’d think that was something to be proud of, and that they’d want to keep.

      It appeared to me that the raising taxes bit was mostly calculated to make Putin’s administration unpopular – there was and is no particular reason to raise taxes, and Russia is in a comparatively good place financially when compared with the USA and – certainly – western Europe. The west is always trying to stir up something that will dent Putin’s popularity, because it’s their only hope of getting a liberal reformer as President who will sell off state industries to the highest bidder. However, I maintain China will never allow a potentially hostile nation to gain control of Russia’s energy industry. Many speculated at the outset of the Iraq war that the reason the U.S. wanted control of Iraq’s oil was not to get cheap gas for itself (that was always a foolish proposition, and only those who didn’t understand how the world oil market works supported it), but to be able to control the pace of development of China and India. Control over the output of the world’s largest energy producer would be a significant strategic advantage, one which the USA has not been able to bring to bear over its lifetime (although its own domestic supply was once adequate for its own needs). The USA pretends unconcern over China’s rapid development, and indeed contributes to it with significant investment, but they have yet to come into serious conflict. The Chinese are too cagey to provoke America prematurely, but they are serious competition and they stopped backing up a long time ago. With Europe more or less taking itself out of the mix, only the USA stands in the way of China becoming the dominant superpower. And to assume that role, and continue steadily advancing, it needs a reliable supply of energy.

      Indeed, all of the liberal economists are hypocrites, in that they say “you should do this” when it has already been tried and failed elsewhere. Perhaps it’s not so much hypocrisy as it is tunnel vision, in which each develops a pet economic theory that would work very well in controlled conditions and absent outside influences, and cannot let it go although its flaws should be obvious.

      I get sick of the west constantly yammering that Russia will collapse if the price of oil goes down. Saudi Arabia will likely collapse if the price of oil goes down, too, and they’ve nothing else to rely on, but they are a strong American ally, so nobody points that out.

      I was interested to learn, in a discussion on Eugene Ivanov’s blog (I had to do a little research for my answer) that Russia exports about 10 times the steel North America does, and is far ahead of Europe as well, all without being anyone’s Most Favoured Nation or being part of the WTO. It’s not like Russia has no alternatives to oil.

      Apparently there was something to the allegation that Kudrin expected to be tapped as Prime Minister, as he was seriously in the running and favoured by some for the position. Whether losing out to Medvedev made him snap is anyone’s guess, but you’re right that finance ministers – especially those in the post for such a long time – are typically very disciplined.

      • cartman says:

        “It appeared to me that the raising taxes bit was mostly calculated to make Putin’s administration unpopular – there was and is no particular reason to raise taxes, and Russia is in a comparatively good place financially when compared with the USA and – certainly – western Europe.”

        I think Putin is completely behind the increase in defense spending, which is the stated bone of contention for Kudrin. So he may also support the increase in taxes. (To date, I don’t believe Russia has tapped luxury goods for taxation, although that may change.)

        You are probably right about Kudrin wanting to keep pensions out of reach. A few months ago he was responsible for saying something idiotic about Russians needing to smoke more. Smoking is also responsible for the biggest ailment in Russia – cardiovascular disease.

        • marknesop says:

          Kudrin would fit right in among the Tea Party – except that he can add and subtract, he was actually pretty good at economics, or else he was just lucky (which often amounts to the same thing). But he’s very conservative in his politics and a proponent of a free market which regulates itself. Once again, that’d be okay if Russia could actually trust the west to be motivated only by profit – there are checks and balances that can be built in to ensure everybody makes enough money to keep them happy, but that nobody gets too crazy. But Russia cannot trust the west to act in good faith, because at the heart of it is always Russia’s removal from the board.

          Kudrin – and obviously, Travin as well – would like to see the big multinationals move in and buy as many shares as they liked; both appear to be gaga over globalism. Again, okay in some circumstances – Canadian businesses have a great deal of American ownership, and vice versa, but those business owners are not interested in taking down the country or its leadership; both are largely sympathetic to American goals. Soft power works well in our exchanges, but soft power would fall away pretty quickly as an approach with a Russia whose business landscape – particularly its energy sector – was dominated by western multinationals, because the west is bent on subjugating and marginalizing Russia rather than entering into any kind of serious partnership. Not all of it by any means, but the western political class still thinks as one and still thinks, “Cold War”. The west thinks it knows how to manage China (ha, ha) but Russia remains the resented stepchild.

        • yalensis says:

          @cartman: I agree Putin most likely would push for tax increase, not because he is mean person, but primarily to pay for increased defense spending. The people will grumble, but they will give him the mandate nonetheless. Word on the street has it that the new Bulava tests were successful (finally!) Seems Russia is really worried now and starting to feel militarily vulnerable without functioning submarine-launch missile capability. Also modernization of army does not come cheap. Hence the need for increased taxes. Male would-be pensioners may end up paying the price. In Soviet times they could look forward to a few quiet years gathering mushrooms in forest and playing with grandchildren. Now must work until they drop dead from lung cancer. No country for old men?

      • Russia’s current retirement age is adequate on account of its low LE, though the age for women (55) should definitely be equalized with that of men (60) because they live about 13 years longer.

        As Russia’s LE rises to W. European levels, it will be prudent to raise the average retirement age then.

        • kievite says:

          Russia’s current retirement age is adequate on account of its low LE, though the age for women (55) should definitely be equalized with that of men (60) because they live about 13 years longer.

          Ukraine just did exactly that as a part of pention reform.

          As the Ukrainian population is aging and the Pension Fund’s deficit is growing, the draft law foresees gradual increase of the retirement age for women from 55 to 60. It is planned that the process will take 10 years by raising the retirement age by 6 months each year.

          Did not cause too much social discontent.

          • marknesop says:

            I’m not sure LE on its own is a particularly reliable barometer of national progress anyway. For one thing, the algorithms used suggest that if Life Expectancy for men is, say, 55, that does not indicate most men die at 55. Rather, it is a median age, and most men in that society die younger than 50 or older than 60. There is still a significant group of men who live well into their 70’s, and how big that group is depends on influencing factors such as affluence, diet, consumption of alcohol and/or tobacco, and stress. Similarly, in the USA, a significant number of people die below the median age owing to the presence of those factors – as well as obesity, which is a bigger problem in the USA than any other country.

            Now, look at this cool interactive graph, which depicts Life Expectancy as a function of per-capita income. Unsurprisingly, nations with higher PCI typically feature higher LE as well. But look at how quickly what is now Russia moved ahead…in spite of how slowly the population grew. Notice China, which started off large in population but was much more sluggish in PCI and much more susceptible to world events. America showed little but slow lateral drift early on, suffered far less of a drop than did Europe from World War II, and increased quickly following it.

            Is not the Russian government, then, doing exactly the right thing by slowly but steadily increasing public-sector wages and pensions – since LE is tied directly to PCI? Of course, other factors in Russia impinge upon LE, but that value is slowly moving up while that of the USA is slowly moving down, despite the median LE in the USA having reached a peak; this is due to the current suffering of the middle class, stagnation in wages and economic uncertainty. If everything stayed the same as it is right now (meaning if reforms implemented continued), LE in Russia would eventually surpass that of the USA, albeit not in our lifetimes. Of course, everything is not going to stay the same, and I’m reasonably confident the USA will recover and that advocates for healthier lifestyles will prevail. But Russia is showing movement in the right direction, and the Russian middle class is gaining strength. This cannot but have a positive effect on LE overall.

  2. I think the crucial point of disagreement between the fiscal hawks (like Kudrin) and the fiscal liberals (like Medvedev and Putin) is in their assessment of future oil prices.

    The hawks believe current prices are unsustainably high, and therefore so is the Russian budget, which needs oil at $110 to be balanced now. This is a reflection of the “cornucopian” world view prevalent among neoliberal types in general – resource shortages cannot matter, because some holy combination of ingenuity, technology, and free markets will always solve them.

    The liberals believe that high oil prices are here to stay. Hence, rises in social and military spending are sustainable.

    I am firmly in the latter camp. Peak oil is an imminent reality; so is rising Chinese demand, and oil exporters’ internal demand for it. Even the futures curves now suggest that market sentiment believes oil prices will remain high and keep sloping upwards into the indefinite future. Hence, Kudrin isn’t needed.

  3. hoct says:

    There is a question whether the current oil price can even be deemed high to begin with. It sounds big in US dollar terms, but how meaningful is that any longer? As the post notes money can be printed, and the Americans certainly do. (And then lie about CPI being designed to measure inflation rather than to conceal it.) In dollar terms the price of oil in the last decade has been volatile, but expressed in gold it has been remarkably stable, seeing few increases.

    Maybe the price of oil is unrealistically high, or maybe $70 or $110 just don’t represent that much money anymore.

  4. marknesop says:

    Some great comments that I am eager to address in detail, but I probably won’t get to it until later as I have an extremely full day. I’ve been away, and things have piled up that need to get done. I’ll be back.

  5. The Kudrin affair shows how incredibly warped discussion of Russia is. By every comparative measure Russia’s fiscal and monetary policies are incredibly conservative. The country is running a budget surplus, has clocked up massive reserves, has a level of sovereign debt relative to GDP of around 10% and has interest rates of 8.5%, which uniquely in the industrialised world are well above inflation. Yet western commentary all written in countries that run deficits ranging from the high to the disastrous and with debt to GDP rations well above 60% demands that Russia pursue fiscal and monetary policies that are more conservative still! Moodys and the other credit rating agencies continue to assess Russia as high risk and demand that it carry out a “fiscal consolidation” when no budget deficit exists. Kudrin has now joined in the fun talking about “budget risks” when the budget is in surplus and even though it was he who as Finance Minister signed off the government’s spending plans for the next three fiscal years!

    Let me make a few simple and I would have thought obvious points:

    1. Revenue in the form of oil and gas receipts is simply revenue. Given that it exists it would be simply bonkers not to use it. If oil prices crash (which they might do) and were to remain low for a very long time the country would have to undertake a difficult fiscal adjustment. However it is crazy to render fiscal policy entirely hostage to such an eventuality, which may never occur. Obviously the Russian government has to take some prudent precautions but as I have said it has done this already and in abundance and it would be totally unreasonable and indeed counterproductive and even in a sense irresponsible for it do more

    2. Russia’s very low levels of personal taxation and its very low levels of state debt mean that if Russia does have to carry out a fiscal adjustment because energy prices crash it can do so and moreover probably without resorting to drastic budget cuts. The substantial reserves the country has put aside will help to tide it over whilst the adjustment is taking place. The adjustment would be disagreeable whilst it lasted but Russia’s very strong fiscal position means that it would beyond doubt be successfully carried out.

    3. A point that is consistently overlooked in discussions of Russia’s “energy dependence” is that Russia is a heavily industrialised country and as well as being the world’s biggest energy exporter is also a major energy consumer. This means that since if global energy prices crash energy prices in Russia would also crash (probably because of domestic energy over production to an even greater degree) amongst the beneficiaries of these lower energy prices would be Russian energy consumers. Since the rouble would fall making exports more competitive and imports more expensive over time the effect would be to boost industrial competitiveness. The adjustment whilst it lasted would be uncomfortable but in time the economy would rebalance and would surely thrive though doing so in a rather different way from the way it is doing today.

    4. Russia is not the only industrialised country where one source accounts for a disproportionate share of domestic revenue. In the US and Britain (especially in Britain) government has depended heavily on tax receipts from the financial community, which is one reason why with the financial crisis budget deficits grew. Nor is Russia the first or the only industrialised country where commodities account for a large proportion of exports. That was true of the 19th century US and it is true of Australia today. When oil was discovered in Britain’s North Sea in the 1970s the transformation of Britain’s budget and trade that this entailed was not seen as a cause of embarrassment but as as a cause of celebration.

    This whole discussion of Russia’s alleged energy dependence has in my opinion something of the quality of a crazy morality play. I suspect a lot of it is down to western unwillingness to credit Russia’s success post 1998 to the return of sane economic decision making and to Putin. In that sense the growth of oil and gas receipts have provided western commentators with an alibi that explains Russia’s success. It is dismal that many Russians have fallen for this fallacy and seem to think that the fact that their country has managed to make itself the world’s biggest energy exporter is something they should feel ashamed of. As for criticism of Russia’s fiscal policies they are simply crazed. I do not think the fiscal policies of any other country would be written about in this way.

    • marknesop says:

      From your lips to God’s ears, Alexander. Although I think Russia’s sovereign debt is a little higher than you suggest, it is still eminently manageable and indeed the national fiscal policy is decidedly conservative.

      The root of all the squalling from the west is that the west treats Russia differently than it does every other country on the planet. With a few notable exceptions, many of whom Mike Averko has done a good job of identifying, the west wastes little to no effort in “hearts and minds” campaigns in Russia such as it employs even in countries it has invaded and in which the national culture and social mores are as distant from those of the west as chalk is from cheese. Instead, historically (at least since the Second World War, when Roosevelt’s government visualized a continuing cooperative relationship with the Soviet Union and desired its support in limiting the power of Japan to recover) the west has thrown everything into a campaign to discredit and undermine the Russian government, relying upon a somewhat clumsy technique in which it attempts to analyze the government’s likely course of action in policymaking, and to discedit it in advance by suggesting the policy is motivated by desperation or personal enrichment. In this manner, the west managed to satisfy at least its own listeners that Russia’s use of national reserves to buy its way out of recession in 2008/09 was the act of a panicky and demoralized government, when in fact it was measured use of funds put by against just such a purpose, and was demonstrably successful. The American position on Russia’s actions suggests that if the USA currently was sitting on a huge pile of savings, it would not spend it to get itself out of recession and stabilize the economy. The vast amounts borrowed for precisely that purpose suggest otherwise.

      Similarly, the west wholeheartedly forgives and embraces former blood enemies, from the British – whose boot on Americans’ necks drove them to violent and forever-glorified revolution although the two countries now enjoy a “special relationship”, to Germany, whose predatory armies once symbolized everything in the world that was repugnant to the American soul. The west has never been formally at war with Russia (unless you count the Cold War, which was more a period of manufactured anxiety and demonization in which the Soviet threat was deliberately and routinely exaggerated in order to justify an unprecedented military/industrial buildup than an actual war by any definition), and was once an ally. Yet the west behaves and advertises as if the struggle against Hitler’s Nazis was a fistfight between a couple of stamp collectors compared with Russia’s quest to conquer the world and bend it to servitude. Russia’s leaders are regularly portrayed as either ossified relics who had actually been dead for years, but whose varnished corpses were regularly wheeled out for military parades (Brezhnev), or skeevy manipulators who dare not show their real motives for fear of public revolt (Putin).

      I once thought WTO membership would be good for Russia, most of all because it would force Russia to abandon clumsy, antiquated, convoluted and sometimes corrupt business practices. I’d still like to see progress on that front, but I’m no longer convinced more direct trade ties with the west would be the best vehicle. Consider, for example, the west’s business relationship with China. Can’t get enough Chinese goods, right, and western investment in China is huge and growing every year. China is not only a direct ideological opponent (Communist), but I strongly doubt China tailors its business practices to western desires. It is the west, instead, that dances to China’s tune where trade is concerned, and the west appears content with that arrangement provided it is making a profit. Not so Russia, and official channels regularly and energetically discourage western investment in Russia although there is plenty of opportunity for profit. Instead, the west cautions that Russia will not be a safe investment climate until it adopts western business practices and ever more transparency.

      Let’s take a brief look at corruption and bribery. In Russia, this almost always consists of an exchange of money, from the one seeking favour to the one in a position to grant it. Although such exchanges do happen in the west, they are rare compared with similar practices in Russia. But how would it affect the balance if we looked at influence-peddling, lobbying and fearmongering as if they were currency? How would the west stack up if lobbying for military/industrial contracts was regarded as an actual exchange of money, which for practical purposes several steps down the road, it is?

      Russia is right to be suspicious of any peaceful overtures from the west, as the olive branch is likely to conceal a dagger.

      • yalensis says:

        @mark: Very excellent comment. The West’s plan for Russia is analogous to Goldfinger’s plan for James Bond:

      • hoct says:

        “… the west wastes little to no effort in ‘hearts and minds’ campaigns in Russia such as it employs even in countries it has invaded and in which the national culture and social mores are as distant from those of the west as chalk is from cheese.”

        You identify both the symptom and the cause.

        In the Star Trek franchise there are several episodes that are set in the “Mirror Universe”. These feature USS Enterprise with a twist — the ship is manned by the very same crewmen only these, instead of being goody two-shoes, are brutal, treacherous and sexually aggressive.

        Also, in Star Trek all antagonistic non-human civilizations, no matter how ruthless and expansionist have some small redeeming quality about them that can be admired and are potential future allies and partners. Usually, though bloodthirsty they are at least fearless and capable of being honourable in their own way. Klingons famously go from being the main enemy of the Federation to being a key ally (without ceasing to be Klingons). Also there is always the one rogue Romulan or reasonable Cardassian who desires peace. Obviously there is no good crewman aboard the Enterprise in the Mirror Universe. And being Star-Trek-humans-in-reverse the mirror universe crewmen have no redeeming qualities about them, but the looks.

        Approach to Russians is different from the approach to other, stranger kinds of foreigners, because they are different things. Other foreigners can be problematic, however they also belong to a vastly different cultures that we can not fully decipher. Thus we have to be sensitive so as to not judge them unfairly. We seek to befriend the Afghans, the Japanese or the Saudi Arabians without looking to change them entirely. That they be remade in our own image is not a requirement for us to be friends. There may be an aspect of their organisation that appears barbarian to us, but which they are nonetheless entitled to preserve, as we do not presume to judge their culture on our own terms.

        These completely foreign cultures are the non-human species of Star Trek. Russians, however, are Mirror Universe westerners. Russians specifically and Eastern Europeans generally are not truly a different kind of animal from ourselves. We are Europeans and they are merely arrested development Europeans. Like Mirror Universe humans are only Star Trek humans who have developed in a rogue direction, the Russians are only ourselves who have developed in a rogue direction. They have missed out on the Renaissance and the Enlightenment and no doubt went for some evil and hopelessly primitive thing of their own making instead.

        Thus there is no need to be sensitive of differences. Differences that exist are not legitimate. They are objective proof of backwardness and nefariousness. There can not be any value to them. The Russians can only be genuinely accepted if they do like other Eastern Europeans and convince us they seek to become us. The only way we can live with them is if remould them fully into ourselves and we appreciate only those Russian leaders (Peter the Great, Boris Yeltsin) who look to remould Russians (arrested development Europeans) into properly developed Europeans, or as they are also known — westerners.

        ‘The West’ simply means “the part of European civilization we are not embarrassed about”. To hope to win hearts and minds in Russia would mean having to be acceptive of differences and to therefore legitimize them. That is as distasteful as legitimizing the ways in which Mirror Universe humans are different from Star Trek humans would be.

        • marknesop says:

          Fabulous analogy. I wondered where you were going with that Star Trek thing for a minute, but you brought it on home with a crescendo!!

          I couldn’t have expressed it so well, but I’ve often thought something the same – the Russians are a white race and look just like us, therefore the notion that they should not wish to ape our every move and thought is a kind of betrayal for which they must be punished. And ignorance is no excuse, because they’ve been offered plenty of chances to get on board for the cheap price of control over their energy resources. Unfortunately, only a few true believers like Nemtsov and Kasparov have surfaced, who would gladly deal but just can’t muster the support.

          Some days, being the masters of the universe sucks worse than others.

          • Russophobia – sublimated racism?

            • marknesop says:

              Not even all that well sublimated, I would say; most dyed-in-the-wool russophobes seem to be, coincidentally, conservative Republicans, judging from their venomous rants about Obama and their sympathy for the positions of Republican figures like John Boehner. I would agree it is sublimated to the extent they themselves are unaware of it, and would probably react angrily if you pointed it out. But policymakers in decisions such as Arizona’s controversial “papers, comrade” immigration law – which requires law-enforcement officials to demand identification from anyone who “looks like they might be an illegal immigrant” are almost invariably conservative Republicans.

              • hoct says:

                Russophobes come from all political camps. From Friederich Engels (“too fundamentally barbarous to find any enjoyment in scientific pursuits or head-work of any kind (except intrigues)” to Victoria the Queen of England (“letting itself down to kiss the feet of the great barbarians”). From John Maynard Keynes (“ingrained beastliness in the Russian nature”), to Margaret Sanger (“human weeds”) to William Dudley Foulke (“Scythia which is now creeping stealthily into the Balkan peninsula and across the plains of Central Asia”) to George F. Kennan (“Russia-unwashed”).

                The problem Russophobes have had with Russia has varied wildly. Those who played up western freedoms alleged they resented Russia’s repression. Those who were conservatives and put order above all else themselves complained of the Russians’ anarchic nature and tendency to revolt. Those who professed devotion to upheaval, revolution and modernity charged that Russians were reactionary and an obstacle to progress. Then when the Bolsheviks took power the problem was suddenly that Russia was too radical. And yes, those who were interested in eugenics and race quickly concluded that Slavs were of an inferior stock.

                Russia and the Russians can represent any number of things, they can personify anarchy, just as well as totalitarianism, conservatism just as radicalism. What is always the same, however, is that they (along with other Eastern Europeans) are the entities the west contrasts against, and points to, in order to showcase its own alleged quality and achievement. The form changes, but the content stays the same. Russophobia is chauvinism, not racism, as Russophobia does not limit itself to just one subset of chauvinism.

                I recommend [i]Inventing Eastern Europe[/i] by Larry Wolff for those who would like to study this for themselves.

                • marknesop says:

                  “Those who were conservatives and put order above all else themselves complained of the Russians’ anarchic nature and tendency to revolt.”

                  And the western conservatives of today bemoan the sheeplike unwillingness of the present Russian population to rise up against the tyranny of Vladimir Putin, and trust Russia’s fate to a progressive liberal like Boris Nemtsov – whom they just know Russians would grow to love, if they’d only give him a chance.

                  As Robert Fenwick says in A.J. Cronin’s great, “The Stars Look Down” ; “Life’s just like a wheel, mon – ’round she comes, if you wait long enough”.

                • cartman says:

                  Conservatives think Russia has only state-run enterprises that were snatched away from the Americans under Vladimir Putin.

                  “And the western conservatives of today bemoan the sheeplike unwillingness of the present Russian population to rise up against the tyranny of Vladimir Putin, and trust Russia’s fate to a progressive liberal like Boris Nemtsov – whom they just know Russians would grow to love, if they’d only give him a chance.”

                  That sounds like coverage from the Guardian (representing western liberals), only there is often a racial aspect to their venom. They even had an article recently with photos of the poor in Russia, with the photographer commenting that “a lot of the people look inbred.”

                • marknesop says:

                  “They even had an article recently with photos of the poor in Russia, with the photographer commenting that “a lot of the people look inbred.”

                  Obviously, that’s a photographer who’s never been to West Virginia.

                  http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/mostread/s_554266.html

                • yalensis says:

                  @hoct, wow another great comment, this is one of the best summaries of russophobia I have ever read. Similar to the unmitigated Hitler-type anti-Semitism (“All Jews are Communists, but all Jews are also wealthy bankers…”) So, basically, Russians are condemned for whatever they do and cannot do anything right. I have said all along that Russians should stop trying to please the West, because the West will never be pleased by anything Russians do, except for committing mass suicide, which would be the only thing that would make them applaud.

        • yalensis says:

          Yes! That Star Trek analogy is brilliant, I wish I had thought of it myself. Because I was trying to think through why West hates Russia so much, and all I could come up with was that lame Goldfinger analogy (“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”), which is funny, but confusing because Bond, of course, is an imperialist British spy, the farthest thing from a Russian.
          Anyhow, to expand upon the “Star Trek theory of international relations”, the Borg were introduced as Russian/Communist type villains (hive mentality, no individual freedoms, etc.) They were the ultimate warlike evil-doers (“Resistance is futile, yada yada”), the farthest thing possible from the talented and eccentric individualists who make up the Enterprise crew. But later the crew did adopt a beautiful (and zaftig) Borg woman (“7 of 9”). But she was not allowed to retain any elements of her Borg culture, except for the skin-tight silver catsuit. In order to please her new comrades, she had to politically renounce the Borg way of life and become more of an “individual”. I always thought that was a pity. Let the Borg be Borg! IMHO.

          • cartman says:

            I think the Klingons were based on Russians and designed to look like Mongolians. The destruction of their home moon was a deliberate parallel to Chernobyl. The Next Generation produced at the time sometimes had them saving the Enterprise and its crew.

            • yalensis says:

              Yes, the Klingon/Chernobyl analogy is painfully obvious, even to a child. The Klingons were depicted as arrogant war-mongerers until they goofed and accidentally blew up their own moon (=Chernobyl). This mistake crippled their military-industrial complex, made them more humble, and more amenable to making concessions to the West … I mean the Federation.
              Speaking of racial stereotypes, this might be a touchy subject, but are the Ferengi supposed to be Jews? They bare some resemblance to those old Nazi caricatures of short-statured, rodent-like money-grubbing Jews, except for those weird forehead/mullet type skulls (that the Ferengi have). If there is similarity, I am guessing it is not deliberate, just something in subliminal subconscious of writers. Whereas the (Russian=Klingon) similarity seems conscious and more than certain. Russians as Mongols. Yes. It is no accident that Russophobes continue to yammer on about the “Tatar yoke” and how that ruined the Russian DNA for all eternity and made them sub-human. (Which is actually quite a cut at the Tatars, some of whom are very nice people, from what I have heard.)

              • marknesop says:

                I never looked into the hidden messaging behind “Star Trek” all that deeply; but perhaps there’s something to the suggestion that all popular entertainment carries some of the subconscious signals of its writers.

                It’s hard to say what the writers were trying to say in Star Trek, because it was so long ago and political winds have shifted many times; it’d be difficult now to determine who wrote what, never mind anyone’s political leanings who was involved with character development. But if the show were written this year, the Ferengi would be the Palestinians. I don’t want to get into an acrimonious discussion of who is right on the issue of Palestinian statehood. However, I could not help but notice on the occasion of the Republican “presidential” debate that discussion of every candidate began with his or her support for Israel. And that if said support were deemed not sufficiently fervent, nothing else after that mattered.

              • marknesop says:

                Alsou is a Tatar. She’s pretty hot.

        • kievite says:

          It’s probably not that simple. The key question is probably about resources of Central Asia. And that’s not a new development. Great Britain actually tried to undermine Russia for centruies in Iran and Caucasus often playing extremly dirty (Russian ambassador to Qajar Persia, Griboyedov was was massacred along with the whole embassy by the angry local mob during British inspired riot). Reminds me killing of members of Russian embassy in Iraq during Iraq war. US tried to undermine Russia in early 1990 by helping Japan before and during Russo-Japanese War.
          http://www.russojapanesewar.com/TR.html

          The American interest in maintaining a balance of power in East Asia and China played a major role in his intervention in the Russo-Japanese War.
          In the years leading up to the Russo-Japanese War, Roosevelt viewed Russia as a friendly power and an effective agent of the white race in its dealings with Asiatics. In 1898, he had written “Russia, and Russia alone of European powers, has been uniformly friendly to us in the past” although “I have no question that this friendliness came almost solely from self-interest.” He identified Russia as the agent of “civilization” in containing the “backward peoples” of Asia. He viewed Russia as a potential dominant power in Asia if it could mobilize North China as an effective addition to its empire.
          While American interests did not conflict with those of Russia, Roosevelt remained a Russian booster. Around 1900, as interests began to clash over access to Chinese markets, Roosevelt’s outlook toward Russia became less favorable. As Russia became a rival to Anglo-American interests, TR viewed Russian actions less as an advancement of civilization over backward races and more as a contest between civilized powers. In August, 1901, Roosevelt said “I feel that an immense boon to humanity has been conferred by…Russia when she expanded over Turkestan, and for the matter of that, over Manchuria. It was a hard task but a task for the benefit of the provinces taken.” Further, “I should not regard it at all for the advantage of mankind to have one civilized power expand at the cost of another, I am glad to see Russia expand in Asia. I am very sorry to see her expand over Finland. I should regret to see Germany take Switzerland or Holland or Denmark, but I should hail with delight Germany getting control of Asia Minor.” He envisioned China as an uncivilized power which “would be benefited by Russia’s advance.” He did note that “it may be that if I knew more of the trade needs between China or Asia generally and our Pacific slope, I might alter my views.”
          Roosevelt’s disposition toward Japan drifted as Japan presented a threat to or a support of American interests. In the 1890s, when annexation of Hawaii by the United States and Japan was in the balance, Roosevelt saw Japan as a threat and urged a build up of the American Pacific fleet to counter the threat posed by the Imperial Japanese Navy. After Japan accepted the American annexation of Hawaii, Roosevelt began to view Japan more favorably. Always an admirer of Japanese efficiency, Roosevelt began to see Japan, by then a British ally, as a counter weight to Russian expansion in the Far East. He even began to overlook Japan’s racial makeup, as evidenced by his statement “Japan, shaking off the lethargy of centuries, has taken her rank among the civilized, modern powers.”
          By the time that the Russo-Japanese War started, Roosevelt was hoping for, and expected, a Japanese victory, but one which would leave a balance of power which left room for American trade in the region. With a view to the security of Hawaii and the Philippines, Roosevelt said “I like to see the war ending with Russia and Japan locked in a clinch, counter weighing one another, and both kept weak by the effort”. His expectations were betrayed by his statement that “The Russians think only with half a mind…I think that Japanese will whip them handsomely.”

          The same story is now repeating in Central Asia. Here is a pretty telling quote from http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insightb/articles/eav062509.shtml

          The efforts by NATO representatives to downplay Brussels’ geopolitical rivalry with Russia contrasted sharply with comments made by the Kremlin’s hawkish representative to the Atlantic Alliance, Dmitry Rogozin, who made it clear that a Western security presence in Central Asia was not welcomed by Moscow. Rogozin told journalists during the forum, in remarks quoted by Russian newspaper Izvestiya, that NATO is making a mess of things in Afghanistan. “[The alliance] is too far from this region, understands nothing about what is happening there, and therefore imagines that they are having some success there, but in actual fact they are getting bogged down in the Afghan quagmire more and more deeply,” Rogozin was quoted as saying.

          Rogozin also called on NATO to recognize the role of international bodies in which Russia plays a key part, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, in promoting Afghanistan’s stabilization. In addition, he suggested that NATO leaders were dreaming if they believed they would ever be able to establish a major presence in Central Asia, especially in Kazakhstan. De Hoop Scheffer on June 24 described Kazakhstan as “NATO’s most active Partner in the Central Asian region,” but Rogozin later described Astana as Moscow’s “wife.”

          “A faithful wife has her admirers who give her flowers,” Rogozin said. “That is NATO — an admirer of Kazakhstan who gives her flowers. Kazakhstan is nevertheless linked . . . to the nucleus of the former Soviet Union and, as before, to Russia. It is impossible to compare the close, kindred, family relations between Kazakhstan and Russia with relations with other families who come and visit, bringing cakes.”

          Kazakhstani officials did not publicly react to Rogozin’s remarks. Instead, officials promoted a couple of non-proliferation initiatives, repeating an offer to host a US-backed global nuclear fuel bank aimed at curtailing the spread of nuclear materials, and calling for the signing of a new global Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. A new pact was proposed last week by President Nursultan Nazarbayev — who did not attend the forum but sent greetings.

          The Security Forum opened amid upheaval at Kazakhstan’s Defense Ministry. Daniyal Akhmetov, who since 2007 had served as Kazakhstan’s first civilian defense minister, was dismissed without explanation on June 17. He was replaced late on June 23 by Adilbek Dzhaksybekov, who had been serving as ambassador to Moscow. Dzhaksybekov’s appointment is unlikely to change Kazakhstan’s overall defense policy, which — like its foreign policy — seeks to tread a fine line between Moscow and the West, without upsetting either one.

          • marknesop says:

            To my mind, there is still something insulting in the implication that the west is simply playing a great game, now setting this one against that one, now flattering and cossetting another and making him believe he is a favoured friend until they have tricked him out of something he would not have willingly given. It’s a bit like the kid in the schoolyard who can make two other boys fight each other by saying, “Whoa!! You gonna let him say that about you?” while he takes no part and incurs no physical risk of injury himself.

            Still, if I’m honest, every country seeks to do that and the more influence a country has, the more successful it is likely to be at it.

            • yalensis says:

              Well, every great nation plays a great game, but nobody plays as dirty as the West (using criminal mobs, terrorists and narco-bosses as surrogates). And nobody has such unbearably hypocritical propaganda (spouting words like “democracy” and “freedom” while using their surrogates to commit the most vicious possible crimes). Compare the Chinese, for contrast. They are playing a very vigorous game in Middle East and Africa, many investments, many infrastructure projects. They are open and honest about their interests, they do not lecture existing governments or pretend to be bringing any positive values, other than the investments and the projects themselves. Russians have similar approach, so kudos to them. Americans/Britains, by contrast, are simply unbearable in their hypocrisy and the bald-facedness of their lies. Libya war opened many eyes to the next big game, which is underway on the continent of Africa. Violent regime change in Libya (using Al Qaeda mobs as surrogates) was only the beginning. Expect shortly to see much Al Qaeda terroristic activities in Nigeria, which I believe to be the next major target for Western re-colonization of Africa. Meanwhile, the Central Asia game will continue as well. The imperialists have enough resources to play the Great Game on every continent.
              P.S. @kievite: Thanks for the reference to Griboyedov, Russian ambassador to Persia assassinated by British-inspired mob in 1829. (World’s first color-coded revolution?) Afficianados of Russian literature will recognize Griboyedov as the author of the play “Горе от ума” (“Woe from Wit”), which is considered a classic of world literature. I own (inherited from dad) an antique (pages very yellowing now) paperback copy of this play published in Moscow in 1974. Great play, by the way, everybody should read. But only if you read Russian, because the dialogue is in rhymes, so probably does not translate well into other languages.

              • marknesop says:

                I’d be wary of labeling the Chinese “open and honest about their interests”, and would argue that their talk of their interests is usually calculated to mirror what they perceive to be your interests. You can’t lump everyone under one banner, and it’s the same with the Chinese, but in business they tend to play a long game, and appear to have invented the word “patience”. They experiment, determine what works and whether they need results now, or if later would do just as well, and constantly refine their methods. The patience approach should result in their bringing Taiwan back under Chinese control within the next 5 years or so. The Taiwanese look at the “special region” designation given Hong Kong and Macau, and it’s easy to imagine them thinking, “that could work for us”. And never a shot in anger need be fired.

                That said, I noticed an enormous difference in China in the period between 1988 and 1998; I visited Quing Dao in 88, and the place seemed ancient, crowded, dirty and resentful. The Chinese plainly did not like us round-eyes, public buildings were poorly maintained and filthy, and I saw few signs of modernity. I visited Shanghai in 1998, and the difference was remarkable – bright, bustling, full of friendly, well-dressed Chinese who were eager to engage in conversation on a variety of subjects and obvious effort made to beautification of the Bund and city streets.

                But still, it remains a unique culture that borrows from the western methodology only where it suits, and features remarkably little assimilation.

  6. yalensis says:

    P.S. This whole blog on Kudrin is really great. It is so stuffed with useful information and links that I had to read it twice. Good job!

  7. yalensis says:

    Okay, this video is real gem: It starts with Dennis Kucinic questioning why the new Libyan NTC government is flying the Al Qaeda flag over the courthouse in Benghazi. [Note: this news came out several days ago, and has been totally confirmed, although some pro-rebs attempted initially to either deny it or spin it; there was also confusion caused by the fact that Al Qaeda apparently flies TWO different flags, one is yellow, the other is black. The one flying in Benghazi is the black one.]
    Anyhow, the video then continues with Obama doing a press conference in which he pats himself on the back for his “glorious” victory in Libya, except they have put captions in his mouth showing what he is really thinking (for example: “Yeah, we dropped thousands of bombs on their Libyan snouts.”). It’s juvenile humor, but pretty funny, in a horrific kind of way:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/AfriSynergy#p/a/u/1/GZ9qKtJuy4g

  8. This has indeed been a very interesting post and discussion.

    On the subject of Russophobia being a form of racism, whilst I do not wish to push the analogy too far it does sometimes seem to me that Russophobia has taken something of the place in the western paranoid imagination that anti semitism once had. Russia and Russians are routinely stereotyped as corrupt, cruel, treacherous, materialistic, conspiratorial and power crazed much as Jews once were. Grandiose schemes for conquest are attributed to Russia on little or no evidence just as many mainstream Europeans used to believe in the fantasy of an international Jewish conspiracy. As was the case with anti semitism Russophobia today is so intense with some people that no fact seems able to shake it.

    Russophobia presents many problems for Russia and for Russians does Russia immense harm but one should not lose sight of the fact that it is the western powers that are in the end the bigger losers. Russia is simply too big and too powerful to be merely wished away. If westerners prefer to believe in a Russia of their own fantasies rather than the Russia that actually exists then they are only fooling themselves.

    • marknesop says:

      There’s a very interesting new study, entitled “Russia and U.S. National Interests; Why Should Americans Care?”, by Graham Allison and Robert Blackwill, featured at La Russophobe’s new effort, “Dying Russia“. It was carried out under the auspices of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs – the hub of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, but of course that isn’t good enough for La Russophobe – if it wasn’t published by Novaya Gazeta, it’s worthless pap.

      Naturally, she portrays it as a caviling, groveling piece of cowardice that will have the KGB strutting shoulder to shoulder down Fifth Avenue before you can say “Comrade Stalin Lives!!”. But even a cursory review should show the reader that cooler heads in the U.S. government realize if they can’t annihilate Russia with an attack or undermine it by seeding discontent and propping up liberal dissidents, they’d better come to some accommodations. Far from recommending America fall on her knees and surrender whatever the conquering Russians demand, it adheres to American national interests right down the line and cooperates only where it is absolutely necessary, grudgingly making only tiny concessions where it must. So pragmatic as to be almost bloodless, it is nonetheless a grimacing acknowledgement that Russia is regaining its feet as a world power and is likely to continue making gains under Putin.

      Probably that’s the part that infuriates La Russophobe. After all, the future hardly looks bright for a blog entitled, “Dying Russia”, does it?

      • peter says:

        Russia is regaining its feet…

        … and preparing to unzip its pants:

        Благодаря сегодняшнему нашему руководству страна крепчает так, что, может быть, пройдет 5–10 лет и мы сможем уже где-то расстегнуть ширинку, как говорят, и показать им.

        • marknesop says:

          I could be wrong, but I don’t think you’ll see much government willingness to take up Viktor Bout’s cause from the standpoint of him having done nothing wrong. It’s generally acknowledged that as an arms dealer, he took his chances – most of the back-and-forth seems to be against the USA effecting or influencing arrest of Russian citizens in a third country while it would not permit the same action by the Russian government against American citizens. They pretty much have to protest, but they must see that they’re on shaky ground considering Bout’s background; their best bet would be to portray it as hypocrisy, considering the USA was quite happy to use Bout’s services themselves, quite likely with full knowledge of who they were dealing with.

          In any case, I’m not familiar with that particular colloquialism – I’ll take your word for its significance. I’d agree, however, that it’s not a particularly appropriate attitude for the business community to display.

    • yalensis says:

      @Alexander: Very good points. But I must add a pessimistic note: As to who will be the bigger loser from Russophobia, I don’t think it is the West. (That’s like me saying: “If you don’t allow me to join your club, then you will be the loser because you will deprive yourself of all my great qualities.” No… actually, I would be the loser… unless I could form my own club that’s better than yours!)
      Russia herself will be the biggest loser especially if all this demonization leads to war. I am very worried that Putin’s return to Kremlin will serve as pretext for West to escalate propaganda war and demonization. Russia is very vulnerable right now, not to full-out invasion, obviously, or nuclear strike; but to the low-level conflicts, insurgencies and terrorism that the West is so good at inciting. Already there are reports (in the various blogs devoted to Libyan war) that hundreds of Islamist fighters, now battle-hardened and trained in the Libyan conflict, are heading off to Chechnya to start something there. This would be in the nature of payback for Putin’s return.

      • marknesop says:

        I would submit that would be most unwise of the militants, since Russia is not Libya and desert fighters would be out of their element in the Caucasus. Ghadafi did not have any Special Forces troops per se, and as Doug made an excellent job of outlining on Anatoly’s blog, didn’t really have a very coherent military strategy at all, buying a hodgepodge of equipment from different countries and concentrating more on what was showy rather than layered defences. That said, it’s also true that the Libyan rebels would never have beaten even Ghadafi without NATO assistance, and they will not be able to count on that in the Caucasus. If they’re strutting around stiff-legged over their great victory, they’d best think it over a little.

        However, it’d be a huge PR bonus for the west if they could point to gory footage of Spetznaz troops slaughtering Islamist fighters in T-shirts and flip-flops (hardly, in the Caucasus, but you know what I mean – regulars against obvious militia at best). Russia would be best served in that event to point to surveys that support most Caucasians wanting to remain part of Russia – the independence movement is tiny by comparison, and such surveys exist already – and highlighting NATO’s assistance in bringing an Al Qaeda government to power in Libya after all their professed revulsion for the organization.

        • yalensis says:

          @mark: Well, it turns out that Libya is part Mountain as well as Desert. Many of the best indigenous Libyan rebel fighters in fact came from the Nafusa region, although I do not know if the geography of this mountainous region is anything similar to Caucasus region. Maybe not. Maybe Libyan rebels in their flip-flop sandals could not endure the snow and cold of the Kavkaz. In any case, meddling in Chechnya is certainly nothing new to Al Qaeda. The Basaev group of insurgents was heavily armed by Saudi Arabia, and many veterans of both Afghanistan wars (Saudis, Yemenis, etc.) fought alongside the insurgents in Chechnya and Dagestan. If I were Russian police, I would just keep my eyes open and maybe try to anticipate/prevent some random terrorist acts in the Caucasus, especially after presidential election, assuming Putin returns to Kremlin.

          • marknesop says:

            Maybe so, but where these fighters came from is less important than where they obtained the combat experience that “battle-hardened” them. For most, it was the relatively flat and open terrain around Sirte and Tripoli (Sirte actually being a major strategic objective because it is the Sirte Basin that holds most of the current oil production). Personally I do not rate these “fighters” as much; they might be and probably are individually courageous, not to mention high on themselves right now – but they are much more a motley collection of individuals with their own ideas on how things should be done rather than a professional military, and achieved their greatest successes after being spoon-fed by NATO. They won’t be able to rely on constant air cover in the Caucasus, and in fact air cover will invariably be the enemy.

            Indeed the Russian police would be wise to stay alert and aware of any foreign movement into the region, but must get ready now for the western spin campaign that will portray it as a clash between a desperate rebel insurgency fighting for freedom and the emotionless, detached machinery of soulless state control that seeks to crush individual will.

            • yalensis says:

              @mark: Along the same theme I thought that you, as a military man, might be interested in this video showing the brand new shiny American rifles that the Libyan rebels received in their Christmas stockings:

              • marknesop says:

                Where’d they get all those new assault rifles and even light anti-tank weapons? Simple: France. France airdropped weapons to the rebels way back in the summer.

                The French army doesn’t use the FN-FAL, although lots of NATO countries do. But it’s made by Fabrique Nationale of Belgium, a French-speaking nation and close ally of France. The French use the FMAS, and besides being chambered in 5.56mm instead of the FN’s 7.62mm, it is a pretty distinctive weapon; I imagine Sarkozy the Killer Dwarf was thinking ahead to what some of them might be used for after the war was over. A little easier to deny where they came from is my guess, since they could have come from anywhere and it’s not even a weapon France uses.

                When I joined the military, our standard infantry weapon was Fabrique Nationale’s FN-C1. It weighed 11.5 pounds fully loaded (like hauling around a dead comrade with you from a weight standpoint, although it doesn’t sound like much) and fired a full-metal-jacket 7.62mm round that would go through a railroad tie. It kicked like a mule, too. The C2, which was the fully automatic light machine gun in the same caliber, was even worse.

                Canada went to a smaller, lighter round (5.56mm) along with many other countries when battlefield studies showed the heavier, faster 7.62 round hardly tumbled at all in flight (unless it hit something else on the way to the target) and the high velocity meant it would often go right through an enemy without doing much damage. Oh, it would kill you, eventually, but that’s not the aim on the battlefield. If I kill you, you’re just dead. If I wound you, you’re out of action and so are the two guys who have to carry you to the rear, or at least off the field. Consequently, most western nations now use the lighter, slower 5.56mm. More stopping power, more lethality, still fairly accurate. How often do you really have to shoot an enemy through a railroad tie, anyway; come on. You could just adopt hollow-point rounds for the bigger caliber, I suppose, but that’s all kinds of different violations of the laws of armed conflict.

                Sarkozy the Overcompensator (can you tell I really dislike him?) wants to be thought of as a great statesman, and in fact he started off well with brokering peaceful agreements and accords that nobody else could seem to achieve. Unfortunately, his short-man complex seized control of his brain, and peace became boring.

                When Libya comes under sharia law and protesters begin to plead for western help, I hope the United Nations Security Council presents their ruler with a nice wallet, made from Sarkozy.

  9. kievite says:

    I agree that the analogy between Russophobia and Anti-Semitism is pretty deep, but I disagree that “at the end western powers are the big losers.” Far from that. Russophobia is a hugely effective tool of foreign policy and can partially be effective in internal policy too (see below).

    So far Western powers are big winners that achieved disintegration of the USSR (which was blown up by forces of ethnonationalism which is the same type of “ethno-identity politics” as Russophobia) and now can polish and apply “divide and conquer” strategy to each republic of the xUSSR space. In this sense Russophobia is really great “divide and conquer” tool, kind of “weapon of mass destruction”. It’s very difficult or impossible to counter such a policy. See http://ria.ru/authors/20060410/45499213.html

    It is especially effective in republics that were part of the USSR and now experience the process of resurgent nationalism. That’s why I think Putin’s attempt to create some kind of common economic space with former republics is a pretty difficult undertaking.

    And again far from being losers, my feeling is that Western foreign policy is a winner here. Russophobia instantly put Russia on the defensive in any foreign policy intiialives as they are guilty by definition and need to prove that they are not the evil ruthless bear that tries to eat the other party alive. Looks how skillfully Britain uses Litvinenko case to stir Russophobia. That’s simply a textbook example of a high art of British foreign policy.

    And all-in-all ethnonationalism has played a profound role in recent history. In Europe those processes (as well as WWI and WWII) led to the dominance of the mono-ethnic states and the level of separation of ethnic groups unheard previously. I think that the USA and West in general is banking that this process is likely to be replayed now elsewhere.

    Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya are recent examples of successes of this policy. And here Russophobia comes as a very handy tool for the xUSSR space and as a way to control Russia’s foreign policy ambitions. Please note that the USA (as well as Canada, Australia and New Zealand) are really “God blessed”, exceptional countries that do not need to deal with “it’s my ancestors land” type of claims. And this (huge) advantage can easily by exploited to the fullest extent possible by supporting “opperesed national groups” within multinational state. . See pretty telling article http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/63217/jerry-z-muller/us-and-them by Jerry Z. Muller

    Also Russophobia is useful as an internal policy tool. By making an association “Communism=Russia” (and I think 80% of Western population does not distinguish between the USSR and Russia) it can be used for brainwashing Western population in neoliberal fashion and undermining the demands for social justice. As book “What’s wrong with Kansas” revealed, this type of “under the radar” strategies (aka “moral issue based politics”) mask real intentions of policies so well that it enlists support for neoliberal deindustrialization, dismantling of the welfare state, and the massive expansion of the prison system that counter the interests of the most blue-collar workers and lower middle class in Mid-West. My impression is that the racial card is played in the USA with such a devilish sophistication (look at the Tea Party) and so subtly that it is very difficult to decipher. For example, while Tea Partiers are perhaps particularly sensitive to the charge of racism, in my view the demand for smaller government is in part related to the fact that “Afro-Americans” are overrepresented among government workers.

    In short it might be not so easy to find a better example of Machiavellian approach to politics in modern times that exploiting Russophobia or enthonationalism in general…

    • yalensis says:

      @kievite: Once again a most excellent comment. I wanted to expand upon your point about the racial issue, which is absolutely the key to deciphering everything in American politics. I am somewhat knowledgeable about history of American civil rights movement, and everybody who has followed this is fully aware that the call for “small government” (earlier, in the 1950’s and 1960’s it was the struggle for “states rights” against the federal government) is a protest against the federal government’s perceived “favoritism” towards African-Americans. Today’s Tea Party types are probably not aware of this history (because they are poorly educated) and many of them are not even personally racists, but basically that is what it is.
      Starting with the Civil War the federal government (willy-nilly) had to step in from time to time to defend the interests of the African-American minority. This iconic painting by American artist Norman Rockwell shows a little girl named Ruby Bridges being escorted to school under the protection of Federal Marshals against the threat of a mob of local whites who wanted to literally murder this child.
      In summary, for decades the white majority in USA has had (false) perception that federal government serves more the interests of blacks than whites. Including your point that blacks are perceived as being over-represented in public sector jobs. (I do not know if that perception is statistically true or not, but it is certainly the case that the public sector was one area where blacks could gain dignified employment as teachers, nurses, social workers, etc., as opposed to the private sector where they were limited to menial jobs like maids and janitors.)
      Many whites also believe (and this perception is false, for sure) that blacks live high on the hog doing no work but receiving food stamps and welfare checks while whites bust their humps doing an honest day’s work. Recall Ronald Reagan’s election campaign in 1980, in which he complained about black “welfare queens” who drove around in Cadillacs, and this appeal to racism gained him many votes from working-class whites. (Anybody who has travelled around America knows that the opposite is the case: wherever you see any real work being done, you see black and brown skinned people doing that work.)
      If one accepts the fact that the black-white racial issue is at the very core of American politics, then this unlocks the key to the whole mystery of why so many Americans want to dismantle their own federal government. Seems like such a silly idea: most other peoples in the world thirsts for bigger and better and more efficient centralized government. But many white Americans want to just chuck it all in and give themselves over to the anarchy of local elites, because they think that will give them a more level playing field.

  10. sinotibetan says:

    Dear yalensis,

    Sorry….off-topic again…
    You said(with regards to Putin’s idea of a Eurasian Union) :-
    “Still a great idea if Putin can pull it off. I will keep ear tuned to Western propaganda. If they start screaming about it hysterically, then I will know that it is a great idea and should be implemented.”

    They are starting to scream hysterically….with this ‘analysis’ from a ‘Russian liberal’:-

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/keeping-russia-from-turning-back/2011/11/04/gIQAbMBetM_story.html

    Probably the article was in response to this:-

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/kyrgyzstan/8859832/Pro-Russia-candidate-wins-Kyrgyz-presidential-election.html

    What do you think?

    sinotibetan

    • yalensis says:

      Dear Sino-Tibetan: Ha! That Washington Post piece is as silly as it gets, but I read the comments section and see that you got in some good shots, you sly dog! I enjoyed reading that stupid commenter who just assumed you were some zombie from “totalitarian” China, and you got to shoot back that you actually live in Malaysia (which I guess these idiots would consider a “free country” because it’s capitalist). Good job!

  11. Viz some of the comments concerning who loses from Russophobia, I agree with many of the comments that have been made. Having said this I think one should distinguish between the successes of certain specific policies and the interests of the people of the west taken as a whole. I cannot for the life of me see how they benefit from a policy of perpetual confrontation with a country that has until recently sought nothing but to be their friend.

    I would also say that a great deal of European history over the last few hundred years has been of western political leaders leading their countries to disaster by repeatedly allowing their prejudices to cloud their judgement about Russia. Examples are so numerous that it would be trite to repeat them. By contrast the one powerful western leader who arguably was most successful in achieving everything he wanted was Bismarck who knew Russia well, liked Russia and Russians, made an effort to learn the language until he could speak it fluently and who made friendship with Russia the basis of his diplomacy. Bismarck by the way also once said that launching a war against Russia was the equivalent of choosing suicide to avoid death.

    As to Sinotibetan’s point, I think reintegrating the Soviet space is possible and even likely though the difficulties obviously should not be underestimated. As to why Russian liberals dislike the project, that presents no mystery. If liberals are a tiny minority within Russia in the post Soviet space taken as a whole their numbers are positively microscopic. That is why they supported the USSR’s breakup in the first place.

    Economically the reintegration of the post Soviet space with its pooling of resources and reunification of what was a single economic space makes complete sense. One of the reasons why living standards in some parts of the post Soviet space are so low as the article says is precisely because they have never recovered from the effects of the USSR’s breakup. If the post Soviet space economically reunified and achieved the synergies that come with that living standards throughout it would rise. One can always tell if a project is a good one if the reasons its opponents give for opposing it are not the ones they really think.

    Post Soviet reintegration is by the way a policy that meets with understanding in Beijing. I read an official Chinese communique on Xinhua following one of Medvedev’s recent visits to Beijing, which straightforwardly said that just as Russia supports China’s One China policy so China supports Russia’s predominant position in the CIS (ie the post Soviet space). It is precisely because China recognises the CIS as Russia’s sphere of influence that it is able to forge economic relations with individual countries within the CIS without jeopardising its good relations with Russia.

  12. cartman says:

    A little off-topic, but there was a 5.6 magnitude earthquake in Oklahoma the other day. What makes this more extraordinary is that Oklahoma only has about 50 very small tremors per year. Since 2009, that number has increased to over 1000/year. This is about the same time they started ramping up hydraulic fracturing in the region.

    The earthquake that struck the Washington D.C. area this year is also suspected to be the result of fracking. There has been a lot of talk of drilling the western Pacific archipelagos – from the Kurils to the South China Sea, so I wonder how this could affect the earthquakes in that region. Also, American energy companies are rushing in to Poland to exploit fracking – mostly for geopolitical reasons, but also because Poles are saying yes. Maybe this will counteract some of the hype that hydraulic fracturing is their magic bullet.

    • marknesop says:

      That’s very interesting – do you have any sources that make the connection between fracking and earthquakes? I hadn’t seen anything previously on such a relationship. My main objection to fracking was its toxicity, and advocates for shale-gas production claim that has been greatly mitigated by new technology. However, if the procedure is actually weakening the mantle (a possible explanation for such a dramatic increase in seismic activity), that would be a negative effect that technology would be challenged to overcome, since the process is by nature violent.

      There are plenty of arguments against fracking, the most solid being toxicity and low EROEI (since many tons of rock must be crushed to yield a comparitively low amount of usable oil/gas), but technology is the claimed panacea for those.

      • peter says:

        … do you have any sources that make the connection between fracking and earthquakes?

        Blackpool earthquake | Magnitude 1.5 | 27 May 2011

        • marknesop says:

          “It is well-established that fluid injection can induce small earthquakes. Typically, these are too small to be felt.”

          First I’d heard of it, although I’ve seldom had any reason to read up on earthquakes. The “too small to be felt” theory might need some revising. I understood from radio reports that the Oklahoma quake did no serious damage, though, although it was quite respectable on the Richter scale. Anyway, thanks, Peter; that’s the best evidence of a tie-in that I’ve seen. What’s your opinion on the viability of shale gas/oil as a future energy source?

    • yalensis says:

      Yes, unfortunately, as much as we hunger for liquified gas, there seems to be some proved causality between fracking and earthquakes. Until the scientific consensus is completely established, it would seem prudent to refrain from FRACKING AROUND with the mantle of the only FRACKING PLANET that we have at our disposal to live on. Duh! (And these words come from a person who worships technology, but despises earthquakes.)

  13. sinotibetan says:

    Dear all and Alexander,

    Very, very interesting thoughts on Russophobia.
    I really found hoct’s Star Trek analogy about Westerners vs Russians(Enterprise crew vs ‘Mirror Universe’ Enterprise crew) as hitting right on with regards to Western ‘perception’ of Russia. I remembered talking to Mark about this intense ‘love-hatred’ relationship between the West and Russia as something inherently ‘racist’ but hoct’s description is the most apt! Recapitulating what hoct said:-

    “Russians, however, are Mirror Universe Westerners….
    The Russians can only be genuinely accepted if they do like other Eastern Europeans and convince us they seek to become us. The only way we can live with them is if remould them fully into ourselves and we appreciate only those Russian leaders (Peter the Great, Boris Yeltsin) who look to remould Russians (arrested development Europeans) into properly developed Europeans, or as they are also known — westerners.”

    Interestingly, the link http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/keeping-russia-from-turning-back/2011/11/04/gIQAbMBetM_story.html written by Russian ‘liberal’ Vladislav Inozemtsev (of the ‘Right Cause’ party)speaks volumes that “Russian liberals” are like reformed ‘Mirror Universe Westerners’ or a Borg who ceases to be a Borg(to quote yalensis):-
    “So what is gained by attempting to unite Russia with its authoritarian and mostly unsuccessful neighbors? ”
    “For whom is such a union attractive, except totalitarian Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan?”
    “Russia and the E.U. nations share common history, culture and civilizational traditions; they also complement each other economically. Only as a unified community of E.U. nations, including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and the Balkan countries — which have a combined GDP of nearly $19 trillion, great technological potential and extensive natural resources — can the broader Europe look with confidence into the future.”
    “Russia has a kind of a European people but, unfortunately, not a European-type government. But Europe has for decades sought to transform former autocracies — Spain, Portugal and Greece in the 1970s and 1980s; Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Baltic republics in the 1990s — into decent, Western-style states. Russia must be next.”
    “They should tell all Russians that their country is perceived by Europeans as European — and it could become an E.U. member state if it reaches the level of democracy and the rule of law common to other members.”
    “Politicians in Brussels and Washington often debate about “who lost Russia.” But Russia is not yet lost. It must change from within. ”

    These snippets speak volumes about the ‘psyche’ behind Western Russophobia and why Western politicians simply LOVE Russian ‘liberals’. Russian liberals simply reveal themselves to be Russians who acknowledge the primitivity of their own people and have ‘metamorphosed’ to the superior West Europeans(and their descendents). The narrative in fact exposes the thought of Russia abandoning Eurasianism(as those Turkic Asians are BACKWARD) to embrace the ‘enlightened, civilized’ Western Europeans. It also explains why Russian liberals would continue to whine and complain about Russia and Russians until the whole Russian state and people ‘mould themselves’ after Washington, London, Berlin or Brussels. The word ‘lost’ reveals the underlying mindset. Russians are whites ‘lost’ to the barbaric Asiatic ‘cultures’ and must be reclaimed by whatever means.

    I think not only Eastern Europeans are ‘looked down’ as somewhat ‘inferior’ to Northwestern Europeans of primarily Germanic stock(England, Netherlands, Germany; the French had ‘Frankish'[Germanic] intrusion) but somewhat the Celts and Southern Europeans(eg. Portugese, Greeks, Italians, Spaniards) were considered ‘more backward’. I wonder if the root of Russophobia has an undercurrent of ‘Germanic sense of superiority’.

    Any thoughts?

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      I’ve started to pull together source material for my next post, based on the Washington Post article you cited. Thanks!!

      The west would accept Russia as an ally and sometime friend only if Russia would in turn kneel and kiss the west’s ring and accept a subordinate role. It will never do that under Putin, which is part of the reason the west hates him so. But a clue to the dawning western realization that russia will play a pivotal role in the future world regardless of its alliances – either as a unit of some future union or on its own as the dominant energy player – is found in the west’s newly cautious language, although it still cannot forbear from telling Russia what it should do. Countries the west despises are routinely either mocked or spoken of in grotesquely patronizing tones.

  14. sinotibetan says:

    Dear Mark,

    Am waiting for your next post!🙂

    Below are some stuff the Russophobes and ‘Russian liberals’ will be smiling with glee….the usual screeching hysterics of Khodorkovsky calling for ‘revolution’ and poll showing ‘popularity of the tandem has declined’…

    http://en.ria.ru/analysis/20111108/168521703.html

    http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/khodorkovsky-says-revolution-will-topple-putins-regime/447356.html

    “It will never do that under Putin, which is part of the reason the west hates him so. ”
    In my opinion, whichever popular leader comes forth in Russia, he or she will be one that puts Russian interests first(which would resonate well with the majority of Russians) and sadly would remain an object of Western hatred. I wonder when the West would realize that their condescending attitude towards Russia(and other ‘despised nations’)would be counterproductive.

    sinotibetan

  15. Dear Sinotibetan,

    I agree with you. No Russian leader who acts in Russia’s interests will ever be popular in the west. I remember a comment written by the British historian AJP Taylor back in the 1960s, who said the west always treats Russia like a tap, which it wants to turn on and off whenever it likes. What he meant by this is that the west wants Russia to provide its help whenever the west wants it (as for example over the nuclear stand off with Iran) but is never prepared to give Russia anything back in return.

  16. Mark Galeotti says:

    Belatedly getting down to reading this post (and the often wonderfully inventive and thoughtful comments), I just wanted to say great work on addressing the whole hagiography of Kudrin!

    Mark

    • marknesop says:

      Thank you, Mark; your blog is pretty much the gold standard for political and legal analysis, and encouragement from you is praise indeed. I’m extremely grateful for your opinion.

  17. Pingback: Send In The Clowns | The Kremlin Stooge

  18. Pingback: Lubavitch Stooge Aleksey Kudrin Offers Putin A Chance To Sell Out Russia: Putin Vows To Defend Russia To End Of Life-Access Denied | Dublinmick's Breaking News

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