News 31 Jan

The Western media has begun to whine about the Russian presidential elections five weeks in advance. Their beef is that Kasyanov was barred from running, ostensibly because above 5% of his required signatures were rigged, but actually to undercut the last independent candidate – Russia’s last and only hope of salvation from the ‘slippery slope to totalitarianism’ (according to Misha “Two Percent” Kasyanov, anyway).

Nonetheless, let’s apply some common sense. Kasyanov’s level of support is around 1% of the electorate, as even the BBC, grudgingly admits. This means around 1 million people. Are we supposed to believe, then, that below 5% of his supposed 2 million signatures were illegitimate? Or were they much higher than 5%, and much higher even than 13.36% (according to the Electoral Commission)? My opinion is that they simply only bothered discarding the most egregiously falsificated ones – enough to disqualify Kasyanov and reveal him for the corrupt, seditious fraud he is.

Perhaps Westerners may care to consider the reason ‘liberals’ lose in Russia has rather more to do with the liberals themselves rather than Stalin Reborn, aka Putin.

Then there’s the whining over Medvedev refusing to participate in TV debates. In my opinion, when you have an overwhelming lead in approval ratings (around 70-85%), relative to the two other main candidates (10-15%), there is little point in agreeing to debates – which are entirely voluntary affairs. In any case, it is questionable what kind of public good debating with an ultra-nationalist clown (Zhirinovsky), an unreformed Communist (Ziuganov) and a political minnow who makes Ralph Nader seem a celebrity (Bogdanov) is going to serve. As it stands, the other candidates are free to participate on two state-owned channels weekly, and air their grievances – which Ziuganov has been doing a lot of, showing up Western claims that crooks (Kasyanov), neocons (Kasparov) and fascists (Limonov) are the only “real independent” candidates for the claptrap they really are.

As I’ve said repeatedly, Saakashvili is in many ways a mirror image of Putin. From the methods by which he steals elections to renegade oligarch look-alike nemeses. Albeit he probably doesn’t travel as much – Putin managed to visit 64 countries in 190 foreign trips during his Presidency.

On the economic front, an article in JRL argues that Russia still has a great deal of under-utilized capacity in agriculture and forestry – unlike industrial output, they have yet to overtake their Soviet peaks. The state under Medvedev intends to invest in sectors where private business is unwilling to go due to their limited capital, amongst them aerospace, nanotechnology and agriculture. Nonetheless, a boom due to expansion in those sectors, contrary to the article’s assertions, is impossible, considering that agriculture made up just 4.6% of Russia’s GDP in 2007. The ruble is also to become free-floating within the next three years.

More on the theory that Russia will be an island of stability in the coming economic storm, due to its huge foreign currency reserves and isolation from the US. In other news, recent data shows that Russia’s economic growth in 2007, at 8.1%, was even faster than previously thought.

Russia is to stop renting radars abroad due to the unreliability of its “allies”. The Russian Air Force will receive new attack helicopters in 2009.

There are plans to create a national DNA bank.

Sean’s Russia Blog reports that Mercer Human Resource Consulting has ranked Russia’s capital as the most expensive city in the world for the second consecutive year. As is well known, however, that only really applies to Western expats with a fondness for 5-star hotels, lobster and high-class escorts.

India is to celebrate the Year of Russia in 2008, just as China celebrated it in 2007. Ah, the joys of soft power…

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