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News 21 July: Expansion amidst Turbulence

Let’s start with two excellent new resources I’ve recently come across. Russia: Other Points of View states its objectives thus:

We believe there is need in the public forum for a venue which offers opinions and facts that at times may differ from the prevailing view in western media.

Hmm… Sounds quite similar to Da Russophile, in fact, and makes a substantial part of our News posts redundant. As such I’ll be referring to it frequently.

The other is the Moscow Defence Brief, an English-language quarterly that offers analysis on Russian, Eurasian and world military affairs from a Russian perspective.

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Education as the Elixir of Growth II

A while ago I wrote Education as the Elixir of Growth on DR, in which I noted that in most countries the educational profile is closely correlated to their level of productivity. The major exceptions are nations with resource windfalls (inflated productivity) and socialist legacies (deflated productivity). Furthermore, the greater the gap between the ‘potential productivity’, as suggested by the human capital level, and actual productivity, the greater will be the rate of economic convergence. This rate in turn depends on the openness of an economy (i.e. the rate at which it can absorb the latest know-how). Some countries, however, cannot converge to advanced industrial levels, since their human capital is set at a low level – they have reached an asymptote relative to the developed world and cannot converge without improving their educational profiles relative to the latter.

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News 7 Apr: NATO Founders, Western Media Deconstructed

America’s desire to have Ukraine and Georgia accede to MAP foundered on European opposition from Germany, France and (somewhat surprisingly) the UK, despite Saakashvili’s implicit comparison of this to Nazi appeasement. Nonetheless, this is good for NATO as an alliance (as we’ve covered previously, the European desire for a rapprochement is linked to Russian logistical help on Afghanistan), as well as in line with public opinion about the importance of good relations with Russia amongst the Ukrainian and Georgian publics. This is not to mention Russia itself, where 64% think Georgian accession to NATO is a security threat and where Ukrainian accession could result in restrictions in territorial revisionism and new visa controls.

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Lovely Levada

As long time readers probably know, I’m a bit of a sucker for statistics, and I’ve recently found a site that I’ll no doubt be sucking dry from now on. Levada Center is Russia’s foremost polling company (equivalent to America’s Gallup), and releases a poll or two every workday. However, unfortunately their English language version is quite limited, so I’ll be using the Russian. I present…

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News 30 March: The Paradoxes of Russophobia

Medvedev gives his first foreign media interview (to the Financial Times), in which he charts the bedrock of his presidency.

  • Will continue to pursue primarily Russia’s, not the West’s, interests.
  • Will work in tandem with Putin, to whom he is neither puppet nor rebel.
  • Will strive to root out “legal nihilism” / proizvol in Russia and corruption, including amongst the siloviki (“power people”) by asserting the law’s supremacy over executive power, cultivating popular respect for the law and improving the courts system, e.g. by raising pay for judges.
  • Will keep trying to demolish Russophobe myths.

Speaking of “legal nihilism”, it seems Medvedev has already started work in this area by forbidding state inspectors from carrying out checks on small businesses in the absence of a court ruling. Hopefully this should help expand the role of small businesses in Russia’s economy, which now make up just 1.1mn small businesses, 3.4mn individual businesspeople and 17% of GDP (typically 40-70% in advanced industrial countries), and expand the middle classes.

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Russophile Core Articles

This is a (continuously expanding) list of the articles that any serious Russia-watcher has to read if they wish to become acquainted with the Russophile worldview. I have hi-lighted the most important ones.

But first, the sources of reality-based, high quality information about Russia. Sublime Oblivion, by yours truly. And now, in no particular order… Eugene Ivanov runs a deeply informed, incisive and humorous political blog on Russia and the US at The Ivanov Report. Another excellent blog is Sean’s Russia Blog written by Sean Guillory – humorous, wide selection and eminently readable. He is an academic currently researching Soviet era youth groups.

Konstantin at Russian Blog and Fedia Krikov at Russia in the Media ran entertaining blogs dedicated to debunking Russophobic drivel, but unfortunately both seem to have died out due to ennui. Investor and published on the Truth and Beauty (…and Russian Finance) newsletter, Eric Kraus, is THE guy at economic and financial ground zero. Timothy Post is an American entrepreneur in Krasnodar, the Russian Riviera.

Nicolai Petro is a very insightful academic who sees evidence that Russia is forging its own democratic culture. Robert Hanh and the other folks who run Russia: Other Points of View make heroic efforts to, well, make other points of view available on Russia in the Western media’s culture of manufactured consent. Peter Lavelle is a highly original and eloquent journalist (not to mention a high paid propaganda master) working for Russia Today. The President of the Russian Federation, or False Dmitri as I like to call him, has a really cool motorcycle on his blog’s header. Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic who is published on numerous blogs.

The eXiled Online is extremely funny and irreverent in a wet fish around the face fashion, but aren’t focused on Russia like the old eXile. In La Russophobe Exposed, Steve J. Nelson explores the murky connections and financing deep within that hate blog’s reptilian layers. Stanislav Mishin’s blog Mat Rodina is a bit too hardcore Orthodox for me, but there is no doubt he is a great Russian-American patriot. Winthrop360 is a fine blog.

That’s it for the blogs. Now for the articles…

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The People Speak: Poll #1 Results, US Presidential Candidates

These are the results of our first poll (running from January 11 to March 19).

I am pleased to see that the number of people thinking it’s brilliant decisively outnumber those who think it should be deleted. (So I’ll remain on the blogosphere.) Otherwise, don’t bother with digressions, aesthetics or more features, but concentrate more on regular news and editorials. Well, I’ll try. I’m not really the kind of person who loves pumping out stuff at constant intervals, but I’ll have a go at making updates more frequent (and posts smaller). As for Core Articles – well, we have a juicy one coming up tomorrow – Top 10 Russophobe Myths, as well as a finished News 19 March.

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Annals of Media Madness – The Trouble with the Economist

This is how the Economist celebrates Russia’s presidential election – the Trouble with Russia’s Economy, represented by a bear gorging itself on oil (i.e. invoking the Myth of the Russian Oil Curse, which we have debunked far too many times to count on this blog). Guess we’ll have to do it again.

Never mind that organizations like the the World Bank, academic econometricians and even their own Economist Intelligence Unit disagrees, and that there is also OECD academic work that argues that ‘the resource curse – if it exists – is at least no fatalité’.

But whatever. Let’s analyse the article on what it says..

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News 2 Mar

The most important development has been Medvedev’s election to the Presidency with 70.2% of the vote. While it has not been squeaky clean (and as such, no different from any other Russian election under either Yeltsin or Putin), the more hystryonic claims of voter intimidation are to be treated with a pinch of salt – for a start, it’s a secret ballot, and as such authorities can have no control over how people vote in the booth. Even Nigel Evans, a British parliamentarian and member of PACE’s monitoring team, admitted “There does not seem to be any voter intimidation“.

Media coverage has been skewed towards Medvedev (who was a key government official – deputy prime minister – as well as election candidate), but this is not surprising in a country where opinion polling typically put his popularity at around 80%, in contrast to Zyuganov’s c.10%, Zhirinovsky’s c.10% and the ‘Liberals” c.1%. (This is also the reason Medvedev refused to participate in TV debates). The elections followed the polls, which heavily suggests that they were free. In fact, the major upset was Zyuganov, who managed to scrape 17.8% (well above what most polls predicted) to the detriment of Medvedev.

Now Russians do get coverage of the latters’ platforms and as such it is not surprising they are rejected – the Communists talk the talk but can’t walk the walk; the Liberal Democrats are too crudely clownish to have genuine popular appeal; and the ultra-low ratings of ‘liberals’ is largely of their own making. After all, the media reflects, as well as manufactures, consent.

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News 8 Feb

Bertelsmann Stiftung has released Who Rules the World?, a very interesting survey where people from different countries are asked: what are the Great Powers today?, what makes a country a Great Power? and which countries will be Great Powers in 2020?

Now the title of Great Power is something that is given to a country, although of course for it to be meaningful the country must possess certain pre-requisites, including but not limited to: a large population, a large, technologically-advanced economy, advanced and comprehensive armed forces and military-industrial complex, energy and mineral resources, strategic nuclear forces, geo-political position and soft power (international influence and cultural appeal). That people recognize a country to be a Great Power is both an accreditation, if you will, and a form of soft power in itself.

Thus it is encouraging that 39% of the people in the survey regard Russia as a World Power – in third place after the United States (81%) and China (50%). Furthermore, this is an increase of 12% points from their 2005 survey – the highest rate of increase amongst all other world powers. For comparison, much-hyped China and India increased by 5% and 3% respectively, while the US remained stagnant. 37% of respondents think that Russia will remain, or become, a World Power in 2020, compared with the US (61%), China (57%), EU and Japan (33%) and India (29%). Again, Russia has had the most significant increase (11%), compared with China (2%), India (5%) and the US (4%).

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