Archives for October 2008

Editorial: Halloween Special – Russia of the Dead

How does Russia stack up as a zombie apocalypse refuge?

How does Russia stack up as a zombie apocalypse refuge?

Halloween is coming up. EnRaged psychos are probably going to invade Russia 28 Months Later. That is, if Russian medical researchers don’t get there first with an accident applying cell transplantation therapy to treat traumatic brain injuries, thus ‘wakening consciousness’ – of a zombie. Plus we need to continue our blog’s recent apocalyptic bend. Thus, I present you with Russia of the Dead, possibly the most in-depth exploration of how various zombie infestation scenarios will play out in various countries.

(Check out an artistic Russian representation of apocalypse in Apocalypse Now and Moscow Cyberpunk by Goshmar. The end times, when there’s no more room in hell and the dead walk the earth to punish mankind for its consumerist sins.

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The Great Debate

Just wanted to point out there is an on-going four-way debate at Streetwise Professor‘s blog between him, commentator Michel, myself and (at times) Timothy Post. In SWP’s words, it is about “(a) the breadth of Russian prosperity, (b) its dependence on oil prices, and (c) the likely future course of oil prices” and despite the subject matter and our ideological differences, it has been generally civil and very interesting.

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Some Thoughts on the Financial Crisis

What with all the noise about the ongoing credit crunch, all around financial apocalypse and burgeoning signs that it is beginning to spill over into Main Street like a torrent of water from a collapsing dam, I thought it’s about time we take a look at this “sucker” (to use Bush’s blunt term) and it’s likely effect on Russia.

The MSM highlights the problems of Russian banks in attaining credit, which has lead to a drastic slowdown in construction, much harder access to credit and the near collapse of Russia’s major stock market, the RTS. Moscow house prices fell by around 25% from their peak, to my personal consternation.

Nonetheless, despite the torrent of sad tidings, I remain bullish on the Russian economy. Its strong fundamentals and relatively low level of integration into the world financial system mean that it will weather the storm much better than either the insolvent financial systems of the Anglo-Saxon sphere or the many catastrophically over-leveraged, deficit-wracked economies of East-Central Europe.

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Ukraine, Georgia and Latvia, Beacons of Freedom

I am being a sarcastic, of course. Ukraine has banned broadcasting of Russian TV channels. Georgia cut access to the .ru domain and banned Russian TV channels (and Euronews!), no doubt to silence any questioning voices over their criminal aggression as opposed to the likes of Fox, CNN or the BBC, which swallowed the psychopathic Saakashvili’s lies hook, line and sinker. Finally, and most disturbingly, Latvia is now arresting those who dare question the stability of its economy on charges of ‘destabilizing the financial system’.

The Western MSM would do well to express greater interest in this instead of endlessly hectoring Russia – the whole specks of chaff and logs and eyes thing, you know. Otherwise, as in the 1930’s, the debris of capitalism could end up once again incubating incipient fascist regimes.

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Russia to Bail Out Iceland?

Will Russia acquire Keflavik without the need for an amphibious invasion, as in the Clancy-verse? Potentially, they could neutralize the SOSUS (a long unrealized Soviet ambition) and reinforce their position in the Arctic-Atlantic region for just 5bn $. This is compared to the 700bn $+ the US has spent in Iraq to little discernible effect.

What the Russians want in return for bailing out Iceland

Near-bankrupt Iceland’s €4bn ($5.43bn) loan from Russia is still not a done deal. Iceland’s central bank Governor David Oddsson says that talks are still “ongoing” but that any aid from Russia would be “very much welcomed.”

You can understand why Iceland is desperate for a massive euro-injection in the current bank crisis: the Sedlabanki, the central bank in Reykjavik, urgently needs euros because it has only €4.5bn in its current reserves and the country’s banking system needs to refinance about €10bn before year end — not easy when the Icelandic krona has fallen 40 per cent against the Euro currency so far this year.

But what price will the Russians demand for their bailout? A highly-placed source in Reykjavik tells Coffee House that Iceland might look kindly on requests from Russia’s military to use America’s former military base in Iceland. America closed its Naval Air Station at Keflavik Airport two years ago, handing back the Nato facility to the Icelandic government.

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More on Deconstructing Russophobia

Back in August the Streetwise Professor, Timothy Post and yours truly had a trilateral discussion on the meaning of Russophobia. Unfortunately, I missed out on the Professor’s August reply, which is reproduced below.

I genuinely appreciate the comment, to which I reply as follows:

1. Edward Said? Puh-lease. Tiresome pomo-ism that elevates banalities about the difficulty of understanding a different culture and the inescapability of subjectivity into 400+ pages of whiney defensiveness with more than a tinge–dare I say it–of stereotypical Middle Eastern conspiracy theorizing.

2. Any broad and deep culture is bound to exhibit a variety of tendencies and behaviors. There is variability in the cross section and over time in a particular state or nation or culture. Nonetheless, there are also clear central tendencies, and clear cross sectional variation across nations/cultures/states. The key thing is the ability to see the forest for the trees. Identifying salient characteristics, trends, and tendencies of course involves some inevitable distortion of a complex reality, but even purely scientific inquiries face this trade off. Mental models and the use of central tendencies to help better understand the whole are both essential engines of inquiry to advance understanding, even though they will not accurately capture every detail.

3. There are clear historical differences between Russia and non-Russian nations and states. This is not just the view of the “Other.” Indeed, a major theme in much Russian political thought and literature is the profound, indeed civilizational, difference between Russia and the West. If there is a “disconnect between Russian reality and Russian reality as represented in Western texts,” there must be a similar disconnect between Russian reality and Russian reality as represented in Russian literature, philosophy, and political writing.

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