Russia


Video: A Day in The Life of a Dictator (portrait of craziness in power) - Documentary Stalin, Edie Amin, Kadafi. How does a dictator live? What is daily life like for a monster in power? From when he wakes up to when he sleeps, what goes on in the life of someone who will decide the fate of millions of people? What are the mechanisms that lead an ambitious individual to a spiral of cruelty and excess?

"Capital flight from Russia is heading towards levels not seen since just before the financial crisis in 1998. About $33bn was moved abroad last year" ("News in Brief." Guardian Weekly, June 17, 2005: 16).


"More than $300bn will be paid in bribes in Russia this year, almost 10 times as much as in 2001, according to a survey. The average bribe paid to corrupt bureaucrats is 13 times what it was four years ago...

"Bribes are most commonly paid to avoid army conscription, secure a place in a school or university, buy up a judge or get better medical treatment. President Vladimir Putin admitted the scale of the problem in a recent speech, calling bureaucrats a "closed and sometimes simply arrogant caste that sees state service as a kind of business." Yet, according to official figures, their number has doubled to 1,25 million since 1990" ("Cost of bribing officials soars." Guardian Weekly, Aug.4, 2005: 9).


"Contrary to established opinion, the gravest threats to America's national security are still in Russia. They derive from an unprecedented development that most US policy makers have recklessly disregarded, as evidenced by the undeclared cold war Washington has waged, under both parties, against post-communist Russia during the past fifteen years.

"As a result of the Soviet brakup in 1991, Russia, a state bearing every nuclear and other device of mass destruction, virtually collapsed. During the 1990s its essential infrastructures--political, economic and social--disintegrated...

"The stability of the political regime atop this bleak post-Soviet landscape rests havily, if not entirely, on the personal popularity and authority of one man, President Vladimir Putin, who admits the state "is not yet completely stable." While Putin's ratings are an extraordinary 70 to 75 percent positive, political institutions and would-be leaders below him have almost no public support...

"...another, perhaps more likely, possibility: Petro-dollars may bring Russia long-term stability, but on the basis of growing authoritarianism and xenophobic nationalism. Those ominous factors derive primarily not from Russia's lost super-power status (or Putin's KGB background), as the US press regularly misinforms readers, but from so many lost and damaged lives at home since 1991. Often called the "Weimar scenario", this outcome probably would not be truly fascist, but it would be a Russia possessing weapons of mass destruction and large proportions of the world's oil and natural gas, even more hostile to the West than was its soviet predecesor...

"Since the early 1990s Washington has simultaneously conducted, under Democrats and Republicans, two fundamentally different policies toward post-Soviet Russia--one decorative and outwardly reassuring, the other real and exceedingly reckless...

"The real US policy has been very different--a relentless winner-take-all exploitation of Russia's post-1991 weakness. Accompanied by broken American promises, condescending lectures and demands for unilateral concessions, it has been even more aggressive and uncomprimising than was Washington's approach to Soviet Communist Russia...

"That interventionary impulse has now grown even into suggestions that Putin be overthrown by the kind of US-backed "color revolutions" carried out since 2003 in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, and attempted this year in Belarus....

"Underpinning these components of the real US policy are familiar cold war double standards condemning Moscow for doing what Washington does.....

"When Washington meddles in the politics of Georgia and Ukraine, it is "promoting democracy"; when the Kremin dow so, it is "neoimperialism"...

"The cold war ended in Moscow, but not in Washington"...

"Military encirclement, the Bush Administration's striving for nuclear supremacy and today's renewed US intrusions into Russian politics are having even worse consequences. They have provoked the Kremlin into undertaking its own conventional and nuclear buildup... while continuing to invest miserly sums in the country's decaying economic base and human resources....

"Meanwhile, Moscow is forming a political, economic and military "strategic partnership" with China, lending support to Iran and other anti-American governments in the Middle East and already putting surface-to-air missiles back in Belarus, in effect Russia's western border with NATO...

"Bush's National Security Council is contemptuous of arms control as "baggage from the cold war." In short, as dangers posed by nuclear weapons have grown and a new arms race unfolds, efforts to curtail or even discuss them have ended...

"...once robust pro-detente public groups, particularly anti-arms-race movements, have been largely demobilized by official, media and academic myths that "the cold war is over" and we have been "liberated" from nuclear and other dangers in Russia...

"The Kremlin's strong preference "not to return to the cold war era," as Putin stated May 13 in response to Cheney's inflammatory charges, has been mainly responsible for preventing such fantasies from becoming reality. "Someone is still fighting the cold war," a British academic recently wrote, "but it isn't Russia." (Stephen F. Cohen. "The New American Cold WarThe Nation July 10, 2006: 9-17).


Colby Glass, MLIS