Archives for November 2010

Translation: On Canada’s Arctic Militarization

This is a reprint of a post from Arctic Progress.

This is a TRANSLATION of an article by Jules Dufour published September 7th, 2010 at (“Le Canada: un plan national pour la militarisation de l’Arctique et de ses ressources stratégiques“). In my opinion its a tad too alarmist over the scope of Canada’s military ambitions in the Arctic (IMO it’s mostly political grandstanding at this stage), but nonetheless it’s important to remember that Russia is hardly the only country militarizing the Arctic and saber-rattling in the High North. To be made available in PDF.

Canada’s National Plan For The Militarization Of The Arctic And Its Strategic Resources

The year 2010 was marked by a series of decisions by the Canadian government concerning rearmament. Predictably, as the defense plan “Canada First” was formally launched in 2008, involving the country in an unprecedented weapons acquisition and modernization program, such as the purchase of tanks, F-35 fighters, naval construction and F-18 fighter upgrades, pledged at the start of September. It was in July that most of these projects were unveiled, during the summer vacations when such news is far from the concerns of Canadians. Thus, tens of billions are committed to war or preparation for war, without it being possible to hold a parliamentary or public debate on the subject. At most, there have been some protests about the magnitude of the pledged sums and the concerns expressed here and on the regional economic fallout (Castonguay, A., 2010). A familiar scenario.

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Three Hypotheses About Demographic Reporting In Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Russia’s demographic revival stalled in 2010, after several years of fast improvements. In January-September, though the birth rate increased by 16,700 souls on the same period last year, it was counterbalanced by an increase in deaths by 37,200 – all of them and more courtesy of the 44,000 excess deaths caused by the Great Russian Heatwave of 2010. A big drop in migration during this period, from 191,500 to 123,100, means that Russia’s population is likely to gently decline this year (in contrast to 2009, when it rose slightly for the first time in 15 years). Nonetheless, the liberal Russian media are as good as ever at spinning these modest developments into harbingers of the apocalypse, as the indefatigable S/O guest blogger Sergey Slobodyan points out.

Three Hypotheses About Demographic Reporting In Nezavisimaya Gazeta

I continue tracking demographic reporting in Nezavisimaya Gazeta (NG). Why NG? I used to like it, many years ago. It still produces serious, thoughtful articles from time to time. In short, it’s a paper I’d like to read – if it were reliable. Regretfully, its reporting on some issues – like demography – is just a total disaster.

Last example: “Rosstat has poured cold water on Minzdrav’s optimism.” Here we learn that mortality in Sep 2010 was 0.3% lower than in Sep 2009, and as usual, deaths from external reasons have dropped by 4.6%. But we also learned that in Jan-Sep 2010, the mortality situation is nothing but a disaster, namely “mortality in 9 months of 2010 is higher than during the whole of 2009”.

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A Response To Vadim Nikitin’s Arguments For The “Liberation” Of Khodorkovsky And The Kuriles

Over at his Foreign Policy Russia blog, and (provocatively?) a few days before Russia’s Unity Day, Vadim Nikitin penned the post Khodorkovsky = Kurils in which he argued for their mutual liberation from the Russian state. Whereas in their time both the conquest of the Kurils and the destruction of robber oligarch Khodorkovsky had been “effective metaphors for Russia’s resurgence”, they now constitute “an impediment for Russia’s modernization”. That’s because “you’re not supposed to know the outcome of a trial in advance” in a modern state, while internationally “what matters today is the volume of trade, not landmass; economic, not territorial, growth.”

Let’s start with the Kurils. Nikitin has an implausibly liberal conception of international relations, relying on the extremely fuzzy logic that unilateral Russian concessions to Japan will promote goodwill and more trade between them. There are immediate problems that any realist could identify. The most important factor is that this is a profoundly unequal exchange: Russia offers a sure and immediate concession, denying itself fishing grounds and barring its Pacific Navy from free strategic access to the ocean, in exchange for… well, nothing. Not even promises of reciprocal concessions from Japan. This strategy paid great dividends in the 1990’s, didn’t it?

Second, nobody sees Russia as a “nice” international player. To the contrary, the prevailing opinion (be it justified or not) is that hard balance of power calculus plays a much bigger role in its conduct than amongst Western countries. Let’s also not forget that in the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco, Japan had officially forsworn any future claims to the Kurils (and even when repeatedly offered two of the four islands from the 1990’s to 2005 as part of a final settlement, Japan refused to play ball). Consider these two points together, and it emerges that the far likelier outcome of Nikitin’s proposal is that a unilateral Russia giveaway will be interpreted as a sign of weakness (or at best stupidity – which it really would be), and since weakness is contemptible, it will only breed demands for more.

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Trolling The Liberasts About Khodorkovsky

I can’t be bothered writing a serious post on the recent Khodorkovsky news (prosecution seeks 14 year sentence, he makes a speech that would be awe-inspiring if it had any truth to it, etc). (Not as if I have anything more to add anyway). I think an account of how I trolled the liberasts would be far more entertaining.

A week ago, Andrey Sidelnikov – the co-organizer of the Strategy-31 Abroad protests with Alex Goldfarb, Berezovsky’s PR man – posted a propaganda tract from Khodorkovsky on Facebook, Reform must, and will, come to Russia. Unable to suppress my trolling instincts, I wrote: “He suffers from lack of free speech so much, this Khodorkovsky, he’s a true martyr of the Putin regime”(1). I honestly wondered if they’d get the sarcasm. (Based on my prior trolling, Russian liberals aren’t good at recognizing humor. A few of them had “Liked” one of my older comments about the necessity of destroying the “bloody regime” and “liquidating the Chekists”, in response to some liberast talking point about the supposed illegality of dispersing the (unsanctioned) Strategy 31 protests.)

Sidelnikov himself was the first to respond, citing the “Love it then go there” Argument (“Why aren’t you living under the Putin regime? I mean you like it so much.”) It’s a logical fallacy, but fair enough, it’s not as if this is a serious argument. I was trolling him after all. Nonetheless, I decided to go in with a serious, and rather important, question – “Regardless of your views on the “Putin regime”, why do you choose to associate yourself with the likes of Berezovsky, Khodorkovsky, etc? Not only does it hurt your approval ratings, but there are no shortage of other, more deserving, victims and causes in Russia. I’m really curious, why do you liberals regard a billionaire who got his wealth through shady connections as your main hero?” And this is when the party really got going…

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