News 25 Jan

The conventional wisdom seems to be that Russia, due to its strong macroeconomic fundamentals and relative isolation from the world economy, will weather the oncoming credit crisis well. In fact, Kudrin (the Finance Minister) suggested ‘Russia and other countries with large gold and currency reserves can…can support the global economy by flexing the financial might of their sovereign funds’, insisting that Russia remains a ‘haven’ of stability amid global financial crisis. This is a sentiment shared by Russia’s senior executives, 73% of whom are ‘very confident’ of revenue growth in 2008 (up from 35% last year). CEO’s from Brazil (63%), India (90%) and China (73%) also feel confident, in contrast to most Western businesspeople, e.g. the US (36%), Japan (31%) and Italy (19%) – who are much less confident than a year ago.

Flextronics and Peugeot plan to build plants in Russia, while Russia is going to build a railway in Saudi Arabia and a hydropower station in Tajikistan. The Russian search engine Yandex enters the world’s top ten, with 566 million searches, or 0.9% of the world’s search requests. Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus are to expand the role of the Eurasian Economic Community by signing nine treaties to draw up a regulatory framework for the Customs Union.

Moscow State University Buys Russia’s First IBM Blue Gene Supercomputer – to be used for fundamental research in nanotechnology, new materials and life sciences. It can run at 27.8 trillion operations per second (Tflop/s). This means Russia will get a second supercomputer in the world’s top 50.

Whatever you thought of Russia’s 2007 parliamentary elections, one unqualifiably good thing is that there are now 62 women (13.8%) in the Duma out of 450, up from 9.8% in the 2003 Duma. (For comparison, Sweden is at 47.3%, US is at 15.2% and France is at 12.2%). This means Russia moved up from joint-95th to 75th in the Women in National Parliaments metric. It also means Russia will do better on rankings like the Global Gender Gap Report, where Russia is 45th – mostly because of low female participation in politics.

Medvedev made some soothing noises, saying that Russia “is building a democracy in which representatives of state power must diligently fulfill the obligations that they have taken upon themselves”, emphasizing the need for a stable democracy with a functioning civil society and guarantees of the rule of law and asserting the world has nothing to fear from Russia.

Lavrov had his annual press conference, in which he reaffirmed Moscow’s position on Kosovo, the British Council, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, NATO and warned some Baltic countries not to glorify Nazism.

Talks of Cold War with Russia is ‘nonsense’: Rice – I quite agree.

Russia-Backed Think Tank To Study Western Democracy – Good.

More tidbits on the missile defence front. Both Slovakia and the denizens of the Polish town where the missile interceptor station is to be based are against missile defence. Meanwhile, Russia’s military chief of staff Yuri Baluyevsky has said Russia is prepared to use pre-emptive nuclear force to defend its national interests – repeating military doctrines assumed in the early 1990’s. (Perhaps this is why NATO has chosen to preserve its self-assumed right to initiate a first strike.) But bearing in mind what we wrote in our second News post, this is an entirely predictable posture.

Ukraine’s President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and Parliament Chairman Arseny Yatsenyuk made public a joint letter to NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, declaring Ukraine’s readiness to advance to a Membership Action Plan with NATO and requesting a decision to that end by the Alliance at its Bucharest summit in early April. Considering ‘support remains confined to some 20% of the overall electorate’, while over half are against joining NATO, it is not surprising there have already been anti-NATO protests in the capital (which is actually strongly pro-Tymoshenko). The Party of Regions and the Communists are adamantly against joining NATO.

RAF alert as Russia stages huge naval exercise in Bay of Biscay – Russia holds its largest naval exercise since Soviet times with France.

Putin hails setting up of 15 regional high-tech clinics in Russia

In Russia, Space Exploration Takes Back Seat to GPS – because apparently Glonass is still plagued by inaccuracy and incomplete coverage. I don’t think that’s a reason to slow down on other projects, though.

Putin: the brutal despot who is dragging the West into a new Cold War – at least according to crazed Russophobe hack Edward Lucas. I give him his richly deserved comeuppance in Comments.

McCain appoints Putin ‘President of Germany’ – a Bushism from another crazed Russophobe.

Gay Parade in Moscow planned for May – there was a discussion on comparative gay rights in Latvia and Russia between pēteris cedriņš and stalker (me) here.

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