Moscow commentator: Russia in far worse shape than most assume

Putin gives life question-answer conference.

Putin gives life question-answer conference. 

2015/02/16 • Analysis & Opinion, Russia

Vladimir Putin’s bombast and aggressiveness both is rooted in and helps conceal the underlying reality: “the situation of Russia is much more difficult than it appears,” as even the most superficial examination of Russian realities demonstrates, according to Moscow political analyst Vasily Zharkov.

In a commentary in yesterday’s “Novaya gazeta,” the scholar at the Moscow Higher School of Social and Economic Sciences points to five reasons that Moscow propaganda has with some success sought to conceal not only from Russians but from citizens of other countries as well.

First, he writes, “Russia is a poor country.” However much people focus on the limousines of its wealth, the future pensions of its citizens are so small that they would elicit only pity “in the poorest of the EU countries” and the state of its villages and other rural areas is comparable to “the poorest countries of Africa.”

Indeed, Zharkov says, “the shine of the capital windows is not so much a sign of wealth as evidence of the bestial inequality and injustice which somehow is accepted as the norm.”

“The shine of the capital windows is not so much a sign of wealth as evidence of the bestial inequality and injustice which somehow is accepted as the norm.”

Second, he argues, “Russia is far from united. Moscow and the provinces are not simply different countries,” but on opposite sides of the border “between the first and third worlds.” As it has worked out, Russia has established “within itself” the global inequality which exists elsewhere between countries.

Third, having lost Soviet political institutions but “not acquired any others in exchange, Russia is balanced at the edge of a war of all against all,” an “internal” conflict which was concealed during the period of high prices of oil but is now very much on public view for anyone who will look.

It is not really a state in the modern sense. Instead, it is a “neo-feudal” structure in which corruption plays the key role. Theft of oil and gas revenues are in fact at the core of the much-ballyhooed “power vertical” because they and not anything else are “the basis of loyalty to ‘the system.’”

Russia is balanced at the edge of a war of all against all,” an “internal” conflict which was concealed during the period of high prices of oil but is now very much on public view for anyone who will look.

Fourth, “Russia cannot any longer be considered a big country” because its “enormous territory has still not been colonized completely.” Instead, it is hollowing out as a result of irreversible demographic decline, something that won’t be reversed because Russia “remains among those countries least attractive for immigrants.”

Some people are afraid that the depopulation of Russia will lead to its occupation by others, “but there is another variant,” one in which it will become a territory no one needs or wants except for its natural resources. Those others will be able to take because Russia will not be able to prevent them from doing so.

And fifth, Zharkov writes, “Russia is no longer a country where Nobel laureates are born. All out cultural and scientific achievements are in the past. In the present, libraries burn, schools and universities contract, obscurantism replaces humanitarian knowledge with magicians driving out contemporary medicine.”

In recent months, Moscow has threatened the world with its nuclear weapons, something that will work only until the US and China develop new weapons that Russia cannot and leads the rest of the world to wonder “what can be done with a country which threatens to organize the end of the world.”

Some say that Russia can lift itself out of all these problems as it did in the 1930s by a mobilization regime. But that is a false hope. There aren’t any more peasant masses who could become a new “labor army,” and bringing in labor migrants from abroad is going to be ever more difficult, whatever the government thinks.

Moreover, he points out, Russia has succeeded in getting embroiled in a fight with the West, “without the participation of which over the last 500 years not a single branch of industry in Russia has arisen.” Even Stalin’s industrialization would have been impossible “without the technological participation of the United States and Germany.”

Many Russians have exalted in the annexation of Crimea without recognizing that that action carries with it a threat to their country as well: if Russia doesn’t respect the borders of other countries, it “shouldn’t be surprised if at some point” its own borders are changed and “not only by our will.”

Still, many Russians and others are convinced that Moscow still has the ultimate support – nuclear weapons, “which were achieved for the USSR by the American family of the Rosenbergs in the name of the unachievable idea of the construction of communism.”

In recent months, Moscow has threatened the world with its nuclear weapons, something that will work only until the US and China develop new weapons that Russia cannot and leads the rest of the world to wonder “what can be done with a country which threatens to organize the end of the world.”

“By its own policies,” Zharkov says, “Russia has put itself and its future at risk. The world looks at [it] with surprise and horror.” For a time, it may be frightened into going along. But as with everything, there is a limit to this – and the world may decide that it can do without Russia just as it has learned to live without Carthage and without the Golden Horde.

Edited by: A. N.

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  • Silencionomore

    Expose of russia employing russians actively supporting Islamic terrorists (between lines) from the m****w times. Recent attacks in Paris, Denmark et al, have all the hallmarks of russian involvement. They house over 20 million of them.

    Six men of Chechen origin are facing terrorism charges in France over
    a suspected recruiting ring sending jihadi fighters to Syria, the Paris
    prosecutor’s office said.

    The men, aged 32 to 38, were handed preliminary charges Thursday
    for alleged preparation of terrorist acts and for terror financing,
    a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office, which handles terrorism cases
    for France, said Friday.

    The suspects were apprehended in the southern commune of Albi and the
    suburbs of Toulouse on Feb. 8 during an anti-terror operation led
    by France’s General Directorate for Internal Security, according to Le
    Figaro newspaper.

    Four of the suspects were residing in France as political refugees,
    one was a dual citizen of Russia and France and another received French
    citizenship in 2009. All six were ordered held without bail.

    In January, five Chechens in possession of explosives were reportedly
    arrested during police raids in the southern French cities of Beziers
    and Montpellier. Reports that the suspects were terrorists rapidly
    emerged in the media. Authorities later dismissed these reports,
    claiming the suspects in their custody were involved in organized crime
    but were not terrorists.

    • Jens A

      You are right that the support from Russia to Assad has made a lot of complications including opening the gates for ISIL, but as for the Copenhagen terrorism yesterday, it was a “home grown” terrorist who was a petty criminal (cannabis, arms etc.) who lost his mind.

      • StumpedNoMore2

        Jens, you made be right because you’re close to that area. However, I am deeply concerned about the recent events that have occurred in Europe recently. These incidents are like a pattern that must be carefully study or else Europe will be in big trouble.

        I’ve just watched ” Religion of Piss: muslim RIOT in Paris France July 2014″ on YouTube. And I believe France to have the largest Muslim population. I’m not saying Russia is supporting these actions but rather there might be a Muslim problem brewing in Europe.

        • Jens A

          Yes, there is a problem. No doubt about it. The good thing is that many Muslims here lay flowers at the synagogue here to commemorate the dead Jewish guard who was killed. There is a growing understanding among Danes of most kinds that most Muslims are actually very peaceful people and a growing understanding among the Muslims here, that not all of them are only peaceful and they themselves have a responsibility to take care of their own not becoming extremist.

          • Melp

            its similar here.
            but one simple can’t control it so easy. interesting btw is that they allways were known before. the ones in france also. and even then it happened

          • StumpedNoMore2

            You voted yesterday? What is your take on Germany’s Pegida? Are they radical or just concern for Germany?

            Source: http://news.yahoo.com/german-anti-euro-party-wins-seats-first-western-184959077.html

          • Melp

            PiDiGa has now splitted, so that i think the radicals will remain in PeDiGa and the others will found a new organization.
            AfD is a party which started as Anti-EURO (currency) party but with this themes alone you can’t govern a country and get enough votes, so they collect all voters which are with something unsatisfied, be it immigrants, muslims, low wages and so on. Merkels politic style btw is so booring that someone can also become unsatisfied of this^^. i would say the AfD is similar to your tea party. and PediGa and the ones which split of are the voters of AfD.
            the voters base is in former east germany higher (ca 15%) than in west germany. in west germany they won until now no elections because they are to new, so hamburg was a test for them for west germany. hamburg is traditionally a SPD city, so if the AfD got here about 6% it will be in other west german states a bit higher. in east germany the AfD made an election campaign against immigrants, in hamburg they made an election campaign for better economics (market liberal). so they are a bit like a chameleon.
            not so good in my opinion is that it seems like they will stay and are not a mayfly.
            but for merkel was the hamburg election a big loss, something she should think about.

            to counter them i voted her.

            the right one^^
            http://www.mopo.de/image/view/2015/1/4/29750348,31518018,highRes,maxh,480,maxw,480,71-80063352.jpg

            “FDP success in Hamburg: Out, out, out – and suddenly in

            By Severin Weiland

            FDP top candidate Suding: Helped “LegGate” and “Rage Speech”?

            Three times in a row left the FDP state parliaments – in Hamburg it celebrates a surprisingly good result. For FDP leader Christian Lindner end the dark months. Now he wants to discipline himselves.

            Berlin – For the first time Christian Lindner may occur with a winning smile before on front of the capital press after an election. Recently had the FDP chairman ro comment one bad news after another: A limp result in the European elections, the expulsion of three East German state parliaments. On Monday, after the committee meetings in Berlin everything will be different.

            The 36-year-old can finally rejoice once. A “icebreaker” – function Lindner had hoped for the election in Hamburg – and his party colleagues on the Elbe have given him a nice profit of just over seven percent.

            In January at the traditional Epiphany meeting of the FDP in Stuttgart, Hamburg Liberals were only lousy two percent. Lindner remembered that time because the poll numbers 2012 in North Rhine-Westphalia for him as top candidates were similar bad, but he was able to get 8.6 percent at the end.

            For the FDP, Lindner at least visually in January ordered a soft relaunch, Hamburg means first of all a – take a deep breath. “The joy and relief are great, but let’s stay on the carpet,” says Lindner. It was not there yet, but “on the right track.” That success makes “sexy” could Lindner study on election night: It was almost as full as to the best times at the party headquarter in Berlin. Of this time reappeared – – Last mainly ex-Development Minister Dirk Niebel and had a limited number of followers preferably endure the liberal gloom at the bar in the restaurant area headquarters. Now there was relaxed atmosphere in the Thomas Dehler House.

            The FDP is benefiting from the weakness of the CDU

            Lindner will not overestimate the success of Hamburg. Remain a realist, as he himself has said it often enough. Also at the end of the term of office of the then party leader Guido Westerwelle elections in 2011 had taken care of the same in a difficult position for a short moment of pleasure – and then it went downhill faster with the FDP.

            The FDP politician Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, Vice-President of the European Parliament, Counted for the Hamburger success on election night several factors: the starting signal from Dreikönigstreffen (a party meeting), the work of Katja Suding, the weakness of the local Christian Democratic Union, a government perspective for social-liberal coalition – and finally Lindners “Rage Speech” in the NRW state parliament. which got in the social networks strong proliferation, the Liberals in Berlin were happy.

            The fact that Sudings in the ARD filmed legs and following apology from the “Tagesschau (TV, Daily News)” (“leg gate”) in the election campaign played a role, also brought attention. But for the party and for Suding even that was not without risk: memories were awaken often stood in the Westerwelle FDP, the pop and show effects before content. Lindner countered even on election night all representations, with the “leg gate” affair the fun party of old Couleur would return.

            Hamburg with the FDP can fill up self-confidence, the perspective has brightened for a return in 2017 the Bundestag. Perhaps there is now even talk with the Hamburg election winner of the SPD, Olaf Scholz. Such has already for longer not happened.

            Hamburg has battered the FDP up again. This is for the time being good for morale in the ranks. In two months, it may be different again when electing in Bremen, in a traditionally for the FDP difficult State.

            “We will not make the mistake to fall into a victory intoxication”, the Bavarian FDP boss Albert Duin from the deep south says. Hamburg was the prelude to the comeback of the FDP, “but most of us still have a long and winding road”.”

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Democratic_Party_%28Germany%29

          • StumpedNoMore2

            Thanks. You guys have so many political parties that’s why it is hard to follow. The reason I like to read about German news is that Germany usually set the tone for the EU. Plus, the only news that I see here is DW which is on public TV.

          • Melp

            in case of right populismn we only follow a bit other EU states, its not so popular here because of our history. normally CDU/CSU (merkels party) covers the rights with a bit of populismn but operates after elections more in the center right^^. now merkel moved to much to the center and opened the right flank.

          • StumpedNoMore2

            Good to see that they care. How’s the economy side of things there Jens? Unemployment wise of the Muslim population? I have read that in Sweden that the new refugees are having hard times assimilating and getting jobs in their new country.

            I just hope the EU is tougher on these sort of things or events. I have also seen a rise in parties that are campaigning against the Muslim like the one in Germany. Do you see any backlash in the future for this? I rather get it from your viewpoint than read it in the news or on YouTube.

          • Jens A

            Unemployment among “Danes with other ethnic background” (our local politically correct phrase for people not from the West) is higher than for Danes, still. But it has improved and I think it will be over in not so many years. We made a “24 years law” making it impossible to get your wife into our country, unless you are above 24 years and it worked. It meant that families no longer could force marriage on their daughters and sons with, well, now I can’t be politically correct, with an illiterate boy or girl from the highlands of Turkey. Especially the Muslim girls took this with open arms and they don’t want to accept to be forced by their families anymore. They are now getting better educations than their ethnically Danish “sisters”, who are getting much better educations than their Danish brothers. The Muslim boys were for some years left completely behind, but it seems that they are now going to school and higher educations like their sisters, but for now it is only in the making.

            The most anti Muslim party in Denmark, who has inspired the similar party in Sweden, is not really anti Muslim, at least not anymore. Of course, if you hate Muslims, that would be the party to vote for, as you would not have any other alternative. Remember though, that if I say something unfavorable about The Third Reich or what ever, I can’t really guard myself against being praised by the Communists, no matter how much I don’t want to be praise by them.

            In general our unemployment here in Denmark is low. Businesses cannot get skilled workers and specialists. You can have many to clean the floor, but fact is that this is done by robots now. Unemployment rate here is 5.0% and we have very generous welfare systems for the ones not at work. These systems are not as generous as they used to be, but compared to other countries, were live on “separate planets”. Taxes are of course high to pay for all this, but they have been reduced and people here generally like that system. Pay your tax, and your are safe to get the medical assistance, pension etc. that you will need and not least, free education. Our new generation will be better educated than any earlier Danish generation.

            Everything is of course not milk and honey. Our universities have become too much of “sausage factories” and too little elite. Our gymnasiums that prepare you for university after basic school have become too much general schools and too little preparation for university. I think parliament knows and we are about to make reforms on that too.

            Unlike any other country in Europe, we made a once and for all reform on pensions. The age of pension is now automatically adjusted according to the expected lifespan. A very fair and very logical solution.

            As for the Muslims and radicalization, you can never guard you against a crackpot. We have strongly said that the idea of “them and us” is no good, neither for the Muslim communities. If that is their attitude, they live in the wrong country. And it seems they got the message and many, not all of course, do a great job to say that religion and politics do not belong together. We even have former very radical Muslims from the time of the cartoon crisis, asking for apology and they work actively to heal the wounds.

  • Jens A

    Brilliant analysis!

  • SadStory

    Russia’s actual behavior is worse than either their economic or political situation.

  • sandy miller

    I have been convinced that Russia is behind much of the problems in the middle east. Can western governments be so stupid as to not see that?

  • Mykola Potytorsky

    the sooner this monstrocity called the ruSSia collapses into nothing the better. I can hardly wait.

  • Kruton

    May the Lord save the Russian people from the Bolshevik child killers!

  • Ken Sears

    THIS is what is behind EVERYTHING Putin is doing. The word for it in English is “Desperation”, enflamed, I feel sure, by his horror of mortality and oblivion. This article expresses perfectly why, at least in part, I have been optimistic from the very beginning and continue to be so. The much greater part of my optimism is faith in the King of kings! But even if I were a non-believer, I hope I would have the perspicacity to grasp, and maintain clearly in view, that Ukraine can continue to navigate its own way and establish itself among the community of free nations long after Putin is dead and gone. In the meantime, Putin’s little fiefdom, the “Principate of Muscovy” (which is actually the only “country” Putin functions in or understands–third-world Russia is of no interest to him beyond the extent that he can keep it passive and servile) is sitting at the peak of a snow-covered mountain on the verge of avalanche…. The MOMENT, the very MOMENT, the Ukrainian crisis is definitively concluded, it ceases to run interference between Putin and the mess that is Russia today. He is dreading that moment. And the uprising of the Ukrainian people against Putin’s kleptocrat stooge Yanukovich brought home to Putin in a chillingly vivid way what was awaiting him as well. We need to see these events on the large historical screen. The Moscow Empire at its height ran everything from East Germany to the Pacific, along with many “colonies” throughout the world. Today, the State of Muscovy is reduced to just Russia, and barely at that, and in its grand play to restore former glory it is doing what? Fraudulently, insidiously, cravenly smuggling men and weapons into a sliver of Ukraine in support of a cause that Putin himself cannot define beyond his own desperation to escape oblivion. As if this resolves the obvious and inexorable long-term trajectory (while Putin does nothing, CAN do nothing, to address that fatal trajectory at home). This is not a resurgence, it’s a desperate, pathetic, final gasp. But (caveat) only if the West doesn’t play the fool….