Streetwise Professor

March 31, 2011

Rampaging Russophobes

Filed under: Economics,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 9:36 pm

It’s amazing the things Russophobes will say.  Like this:

“Right now [Russia's] investment climate is so bad that it won’t be affected” [by the imminent failure of the BP-Rosneft deal].

What slander.  Must be some retrograde, Cold War fossil.

Check that.  It was Arkady Dvorkovich, Medvedev’s top economic aide.

Dvorkovich is actually a serial offender:

The risk of doing business in Russia will increase in the eyes of many foreign investors after the second conviction of Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky last month, Kremlin economic aide Arkady Dvorkovich said Wednesday.

“I think a considerable portion of at least the foreign community will have serious questions, and the assessment of risks of working in the Russian Federation will rise,” he said in an online interview with Gazeta.ru.

If he asks you to start his car, I’d take a pass.

Well, what about this outrageous slur against “Russian culture”?:

What are we witnessing at present? Unfortunately, we are witnessing a shortage of trust. And we should say this openly. I have already given my assessment to the investment climate in [Russia]. It is very bad here, very bad.

“For many relatively small companies, conditions for doing business have deteriorated rather than improved this year. Mandatory insurance contributions have been increased for quite understandable reasons. I know this. Electricity payments have increased in the majority of regions. This has also facilitated a rise in the prices of some other products of the economy.

“Corruption remains a factor affecting the overall economic situation. The grip of corruption is not weakening. It is holding the entire economy by the throat. The result is clear. Cash is fleeing our economy. Not as many people as we would have liked to believe in the possibility of safe and successful entrepreneurship. Not too many entrepreneurs believe in this.”

That’s gotta be some Russia-hater, right?  Wrong:  that was Dmitri Medvedev.  You know, the Dmitri Medvedev who happens to be President of the Russian Federation.

For those of you who think that I am some inveterate Russia hater, accept the reality that the vast bulk of what I have written about Russia’s political and economic system documents and critiques the very same dysfunctions that Dvorkovich and Medvedev bewail.  Deal with it.  Shrieking “Russophobia” at those who have the termerity to point out those dysfunctions is just a cop out.  A cheap way to avoid having to present a real, responsive argument.

And it’s not just Medvedev and Dvorkovich.  There are numerous Russian economists and political scientists that have come to similar conclusions.  Are they all Russophobes too?

No, these critiques are not at all about Russians personally, as a people, or culturally.  They are about different visions of society, economy, and politics.  Many Russians have been taking this side of the argument against other Russians for a long time.  Some Russians who arrogate to themselves the authority to determine what is legitimately Russian often claim that these are in fact foreign and profoundly un-Russian ideas.  And they’ve been doing so for almost two centuries.

If one wanted to summarize the target of the current critiques in a single word, it would be “Putinism.”  Of course Putinism is a variation on a long Russian political tradition, and exhibits similarities with other patrimonial, natural state systems.  But it is a recipe for stagnation, and is fundamentally corrupt and corrupting.  That’s the recurrent SWP theme over the past 5 years.  And serious voices in Russia agree with the gravamen of this critique.

I, of course, can only critique: I can’t do anything about it.  A barking dog, if you will.  But some who have the potential to affect the course of the caravan are finally making rumblings about challenging this system.  Most notably, Medvedev.

Yesterday he announced the most daring move of his presidency (a low standard, to be sure): he has ordered all state ministers to resign seats on the boards of corporations.  The nexus between business and state office is a defining feature of Putinism, so Medvedev’s move threatens the system.  These ministers-cum-directors can use their business positions for self-enrichment, and to deploy economic power to achieve political (and geopolitical) objectives.  Reducing the direct ties between high political office and high business position will hit certain people where it hurts: in their bank accounts, and in their ability to use economic blandishments to exercise political influence.

One of the most prominent targets of this directive is Igor Sechin.  It will be quite interesting to see how this plays out.

I am still skeptical about Medvedev’s ability to change the system substantively, and his stomach for the knife fighting that will be necessary to do so.  But this unexpected, preemptive strike at Putin’s inner circle is the most encouraging sign yet that his reformism is more than just talk. It may lead nowhere. It may lead to some initial changes that will eventually be overwhelmed by Russia’s historical legacy and the daunting difficulties of building impersonal, open institutions. But it’s a start: Putinism is just a dead end.

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39 Comments »

  1. A fight between Medvedev and Putin for the 2012 presidency would be very interesting to watch. Can Medvedev-the-underdog win?

    Comment by Ostap Bender — March 31, 2011 @ 10:28 pm

  2. This sure looks like April 1 news

    Comment by Ivan — March 31, 2011 @ 11:38 pm

  3. The problem is that despite firing more people than Putin ever did, he’s already garnered a reputation of a projecteur. http://www.inpic.ru/pic/5620-98313839.jpg

    Comment by So? — April 1, 2011 @ 1:14 am

  4. Yes, Ostap is right, it’s clear what needs to happen here. Vova Putin, the “real” Russian, needs to ride in to the rescue and toss these damn Russophobe traitors into Siberian prison right next to Khodorkovsky and all the other evil Russians working to destroy the country and undo all Vova’s brilliant work.

    In fact, that’s probably much too lenient. He really ought to just kill them, the way Stalin would have.

    Comment by La Russophobe — April 1, 2011 @ 4:20 am

  5. “Shrieking “Russophobia” at those who have the termerity to point out those dysfunctions is just a cop out.  A cheap way to avoid having to present a real, responsive argument.”

    Never said you were a Russophobe, just a Procrustese.   Who barks a lot when folks refuse a nap on his bed.

    And we see what is happening to Latvia, on a bed that’s very similar to the one you want Russia to get onto.

    What most hurts your case is your obsession with Putin, and your failure to admit that Russia has made a lot of progress while Putin has been in power.  Your real problem with him is that because of Putin, the Russian government is now insufficiently submissive to the U.S., which aggravates the Andy Jackson in you.

    “If one wanted to summarize the target of the current critiques in a single word, it would be “Putinism.”  Of course Putinism is a variation on a long Russian political tradition, and exhibits similarities with other patrimonial, natural state systems.  But it is a recipe for stagnation, and is fundamentally corrupt and corrupting.  That’s the recurrent SWP theme over the past 5 years.  And serious voices in Russia agree with the gravamen of this critique.”

    No one serious pretends that Russia does not have serious problems.  Putin found Russia in a death spiral, like the one Latvia and Ukraine are still in.  Deaths exceeded births in Russia by ~930,000 in 1999, and by ~959,000 in 2000.  By 2009, that gap had narrowed to ~249,000, and indications are that gap is continuing to close.   

    You also do not acknowledge either the catastrophic condition Russia was in when Putin took power, or that anything there has improved in Russia since, or that a “Western orientation” following the “Washington Consensus” like Latvia does is no solution to the problems these countries have.

    Comment by rkka — April 1, 2011 @ 10:06 am

  6. Hey, rkka, please enlighten us all what has improved in Russia under putlerism??? Please,please do…..

    Comment by voroBey — April 1, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

  7. … and indications are that gap is continuing to close.

    This is a temporary trend. According to this report (Section 1.2, p.20), “by 2012 the number of potential mothers will return to the level at the beginning of the 1990s and the number of elderly persons will return to growth as the large generation groups of 1949-1960 reach 60 years of age. Natural decrease of population will accelerate once again. The rate of acceleration will depend on success in lowering mortality and raising fertility, but no forecasters are expecting that changes in mortality and fertility will be able to stop the acceleration completely.”

    Comment by peter — April 1, 2011 @ 2:08 pm

  8. Wow, voroBey, you’re [barking] ex ano. A neat trick, I’ll admit.

    But once is enough.

    Comment by rkka — April 1, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

  9. Yes, LR is right, she is indeed a heroic person who can post opinions to the internet despite her mental retardation.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — April 1, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

  10. @ rkka:

    “Ukraine” is not in a death spiral. Parts of it are not:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NaturalGrowth2010.PNG

    Comment by PA — April 1, 2011 @ 7:58 pm

  11. La Russophobe, why do you hate Medvedev so much?

    Comment by Mark — April 1, 2011 @ 8:01 pm

  12. LR recently posted to her blog:

    Imagine having to live on $6.93 per day or less. That’s all you’ve got to buy food and put a roof over your head, and to pay for transportation to and from your work, which pays you roughly $1.30 per hour. For medical expenses, entertainment, the whole shooting match. You’ve got $0.42 per hour of each day to survive on. Think you could do it?

    Is this an ad for a full-time job on your blog? You claim that you accept no financial support, no money from Jamestown Foundation and such, and no ads, and yet you also claim that you employ several full-time “editors”. How do they survive on $0.00 per day or less? :-)

    Comment by Ostap Bender — April 1, 2011 @ 10:57 pm

  13. I think Gostapo is looking in the mirror when he is talking about the heroics of the mentally retarded posting on the web.

    Really Gostapo, given your adoration of the USSR, one suspects you are clinically insane or mentally deficient to an excessive degree. Especially as you claim your parents were Soviet era dissidents, the must be so proud.

    Defending the USSR is well on a par with defending Nazi Germany, and for most of the same reasons.

    Comment by Andrew — April 2, 2011 @ 5:29 am

  14. Defending the USSR is well on a par with defending Nazi Germany, and for most of the same reasons.”

    Believe it or not, the above represents progress. Before 23 August 1939, the Britosphere preferred dealing with Nazi Germany.

    Comment by rkka — April 2, 2011 @ 9:47 am

  15. > Before 23 August 1939, the Britosphere preferred dealing with Nazi Germany.

    Whereas the Russosphere preferred dealing with Nazi Germany up until June 22, 1941.

    Comment by Ivan — April 3, 2011 @ 10:03 am

  16. Here’s another raging Russophobe, former Russian First Deputy Prime Minister and Nizhny Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov:

    http://larussophobe.wordpress.com/2011/04/03/special-extra-the-nemtsov-white-paper-part-v-putin-the-thief/

    He says the “Prime Minister” and “President” of Russia are on the take. He must be shot!

    Comment by La Russophobe — April 3, 2011 @ 10:14 am

  17. TOP TEN REASONS TO HATE DIMA MEDVEDEV

    (1) He’s a liar.
    (2) He’s stupid.
    (3) He looks like a stupid liar.
    (4) He’s a thief who owns things he can’t possibly afford.
    (5) He’s a hypocrite.
    (6) He’s a traitor to his profession (or would be, if Russians knew the meaning of the word “law”). Viz, Mikhail Khdorokovsky.
    (7) He has done absolutely nothing to change or improve Russia since he took “power”.
    (8) He hasn’t fired the prime minister, though in his place Vladimir Putin instantly would have.
    (9) He’s helping drag Russia back into totalitarian darkness.
    (10) He used to work for Gazprom, the single most corrupt business organization on this planet.

    Comment by La Russophobe — April 3, 2011 @ 10:19 am

  18. “> Before 23 August 1939, the Britosphere preferred dealing with Nazi Germany.

    Whereas the Russosphere preferred dealing with Nazi Germany up until June 22, 1941.

    Comment by Ivan — April 3, 2011 @ 10:03 am”

    Again, Ivan speaks ex ano. The Russosphere offered the Britosphere a military alliance on 16 April 1939.

    Unfortunately, the Britosphere wanted “Germany and England as two pillars of European peace and buttresses against Communism.

    Even after the outbreak of the war.

    Comment by rkka — April 3, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

  19. > Even after the outbreak of the war.

    Precisely, the USSR was very actively helping its Nazi allies for almost two years after the outbreak of the war between the Brits and the Nazis.

    Comment by Ivan — April 3, 2011 @ 1:02 pm

  20. Balance-of-power shenanigans are neither good, nor bad, but a fact of life. Britain was so engrossed in the game on the continent, that she failed to notice that she was being played by a newer, bigger player. Or maybe she did and simply tried to make the best of it. (Just like Stalin, I suppose). Maybe that’s why Americans seem to like that chump Churchill so much, yet viscerally hate Stalin (but love Gorby!).

    Comment by So? — April 3, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

  21. Oh, those visceral Americans. Sure has nothing to do with the fact that Stalin was Europe’s bloodiest tyrant of all times.

    Comment by Ivan — April 3, 2011 @ 11:58 pm

  22. Your hero blew his brains out. Get over it.

    Comment by So? — April 4, 2011 @ 12:25 am

  23. Your hero is universally hated because he was a psycho mass murderer. Live with it.

    Comment by Ivan — April 4, 2011 @ 2:36 am

  24. No, he’s hated for winning.

    Comment by So? — April 4, 2011 @ 2:52 am

  25. @ So?, unfortunately retards such as yourself forget that it is quite possible to hate Hitler and Stalin at the same time.

    As Churchill said “It is a pity they both can’t lose”

    Oh and nice characterization of Russian crimes against humanity in the Baltics and Finland as alance-of-power shenanigans are neither good, nor bad, but a fact of life

    Guess you say the same thing about modern day ethnic cleansing.

    The Russian lack of respect for human life is alive and well.

    Comment by Andrew — April 4, 2011 @ 5:10 am

  26. And as for Unfortunately, the Britosphere wanted “Germany and England as two pillars of European peace and buttresses against Communism. more BS

    Turning once again, and this time more generally, to the question of invasion, I would observe that there has never been a period in all these long centuries of which we boast when an absolute guarantee against invasion, still less against serious raids, could have been given to our people. In the days of Napoleon, of which I was speaking just now, the same wind which would have carried his transports across the Channel might have driven away the blockading fleet. There was always the chance, and it is that chance which has excited and befooled the imaginations of many Continental tyrants. Many are the tales that are told. We are assured that novel methods will be adopted, and when we see the originality of malice, the ingenuity of aggression, which our enemy displays, we may certainly prepare ourselves for every kind of novel stratagem and every kind of brutal and treacherous manœuvre. I think that no idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered and viewed with a searching, but at the same time, I hope, with a steady eye. We must never forget the solid assurances of sea power and those which belong to air power if it can be locally exercised.

    I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once more able to defend our island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government — every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength.

    Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

    Comment by Andrew — April 4, 2011 @ 5:14 am

  27. Let me guess, Windbag Churchill?

    Comment by So? — April 4, 2011 @ 7:31 am

  28. Well, its a hell of a lot better than the alliance you Russians had with Hitler.

    Besides, he did not have to shoot men in the back to get them to fight.

    Comment by Andrew — April 4, 2011 @ 7:34 am

  29. “And as for Unfortunately, the Britosphere wanted “Germany and England as two pillars of European peace and buttresses against Communism. more BS”

    Nope, The foreign policy of the British Empire, as described by Prime Minister Chamberlain in his letter to King George VI of 15 September 1938.

    The stirring words you cite did not become the foreign policy of the British Empire until 10 May 1940.

    Of course, had Churchill been PM in August 1939, the world may well have seen the Grand Alliance formed then, and Hitler defeated in Poland. Churchill was an advocate of alliance with the USSR in 1938 and 1939.

    But he wasn’t PM. Chamberlain was, and Neville wanted deals with Hitler.

    Comment by rkka — April 4, 2011 @ 10:55 am

  30. Stalin was a Russophobe.

    One feature of the history of old Russia was the continual beatings she suffered because of her backwardness. She was beaten by the Mongol khans. She was beaten by the Turkish beys. She was beaten by the Swedish feudal lords. She was beaten by the Polish and Lithuanian gentry. She was beaten by the British and French capitalists. She was beaten by the Japanese barons. All beat her because of her backwardness, military backwardness, cultural backwardness, political backwardness, industrial backwardness, agricultural backwardness. They beat her because to do so was profitable and could be done with impunity. Do you remember the words of the prerevolutionary poet: “You are poor and abundant, mighty and impotent, Mother Russia.”

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — April 4, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

  31. Medvedev is a liberal Stalinist.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — April 4, 2011 @ 5:03 pm

  32. Sorry RKKA, but Chamberlain did not want Britain and Germany as two buttresses against communism, he was trying to avoid being dragged into another war with Germany. After all in WW1 Russia played a militarily insignificant part, while Britain and France did all the work.

    There is a big difference between diplomatically trying to avoid a war, and actively engaging in an alliance with Nazi Germany and then mutually invading, occupying and oppressing eastern Europe.

    As to his governments attitude to Germany:

    Germany
    As part of the process of winning German acceptance of the existing European order with suitable modifications and concessions to the Reich was the idea of the “general settlement”. A major goal of Chamberlain’s early foreign policy was to seek a “general settlement” that would settle all of Germany’s grievances that he considered justified, and thus guarantee the peace of Europe. In May 1937, during the talks with Reichsbank President Dr. Hjalmar Schacht during his visit to London the British drew up a paper listing their demands as a German return to the League of Nations, a non-aggression pact for Western Europe, a treaty limiting armaments, and “Measures by Germany, in treaty form or otherwise, which will satisfy the governments of Central and Eastern Europe with regard…to respect the territorial integrity and sovereign independence of all Central and Eastern European states”. Most importantly, the general settlement was to be negotiated from position of strength, and thus for Chamberlain, it was preferable to complete British rearmament before undertaking such talks. The emphasis was put on Germany because as a the Defense Requirements Committee (DRC) (which Chamberlain had helped to write as Chancellor of the Exchequer) report of February 28, 1934 called Germany “the ultimate potential enemy against whom our `long-range’ defense policy must be directed”. The emphasis upon Germany was due to an assessment of German power and had nothing to do with friendly feelings towards Germany on Chamberlain’s part; Chamberlain’s feelings towards Germans were well summarised in a letter he wrote to one of his sisters in 1930 where he stated “”On the whole I hate Germans”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neville_Chamberlain's_European_Policy#Germany

    Comment by Andrew — April 4, 2011 @ 11:29 pm

  33. At SOb, Stalin was a Russophile, hence his lauding of Russian culture at the expense of ethnic minorities.

    And that is why he is far more popular in Russia than in his native Georgia.

    BTW, he was Georgian, Ossetian, and Russian by ancestry.

    Comment by Andrew — April 5, 2011 @ 7:01 am

  34. The Russosphere offered the Britosphere a military alliance on 16 April 1939.

    17 April. Do you ever get anything right?

    Comment by peter — April 5, 2011 @ 8:21 am

  35. ““Measures by Germany, in treaty form or otherwise, which will satisfy the governments of Central and Eastern Europe with regard…to respect the territorial integrity and sovereign independence of all Central and Eastern European states”

    And when Adolph marched into Prague, Neville was glad to be rid of a guarantee to Czechoslovakia he never wanted to fulfill.

    Shows you how much he really cared for the territorial integrity and sovereign independence of Central and Eastern European states that Adolpf wanted to grab.

    Comment by rkka — April 5, 2011 @ 9:40 am

  36. Well RKKA, he was simply fulfilling the political will of the average British voter at the time, they did not want another war, having sacrificed so much in the first, and they were not particularly impressed with the way Sudetenland Germans were being treated.

    However, once again, if your tiny little brain is capable of making the distinction, there is a big difference between Chamberlain’s attempts to avoid a war, and the Russian alliance with Nazi Germany.

    Also, has it not occurred to you that maybe western democracies might have been a little repulsed by the ongoing mass murder in the Soviet Union? You see, unlike Russians, Brits tend to have respect for human life.

    Comment by Andrew — April 5, 2011 @ 11:22 pm

  37. So you agree that the Britosphere didn’t want to accept the Soviet alliance offer to fight Nazis, preferring to make deals with Nazis.

    More progress!

    Comment by rkka — April 7, 2011 @ 7:24 pm

  38. So you agree…

    No, rkka, not really. We already had this argument, your performance was as pathetic as usual: long on attitude, short on logic and factual knowledge.

    Comment by peter — April 8, 2011 @ 3:17 am

  39. Sez you. It’s not like you contributed anything like information.

    Spite and snideness, mostly.

    Comment by rkka — April 8, 2011 @ 6:51 pm

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