russia &amp; eurasia https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/85/all cached version 09/02/2019 02:12:09 en Troca de favores nas Nações Unidas https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/manuel-nunes-ramires-serrano/troca-de-favores-nas-na-es-unidas <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>O candidato favorito para suceder a Ban Ki-Moon como Secretário Geral da ONU é o Ex primeiro-ministro português António Guterres. Mas o procedimento de eleição continua a ser pouco democrático. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/manuel-nunes-ramires-serrano/straw-polling-in-un">English</a> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/manuel-nunes-ramires-serrano/intercambiando-favores-en-las-naciones-unidas" target="_self">Español&nbsp;</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/Guterres_0_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/Guterres_0_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>O candidato a Secretário Geral da ONU, António Guterres, durante o discurso perante o United Nations Trusteeship Council Chamber. 12 de abril, 2016. AP/Foto/Richard Drew. Todos os direitos reservados. </span></span></span></p><p>As Nações Unidas cumprem 70 anos, mas a posição de Secretário Geral não se tornou mais fácil com o passar do tempo. O <em>porta-voz</em> dos interesses dos povos do mundo tem múltiplos incêndios para apagar. Como fazer frente a uma crise humanitária sem precedentes no Mediterrâneo e a metástase da insegurança na Síria, como lidar com o aquecimento global, como enfrentar-se ao populismo e ao terrorismo em todo o mundo – a lista é longa. Fortalecer a posição de Secretário Geral é uma questão especialmente urgente neste momento, tendo em conta que os Objetivos de Desenvolvimento do Milénio (ODM), que terminam este ano, serão sucedidos pelos <a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300">Objetivos de Desenvolvimento Sustentável</a>, inaugurando assim uma etapa crucial para o futuro da organização. Esta transição poderia supor uma oportunidade para que a ONU reflexionasse, entre outras questões, sobre o funcionamento do procedimento de eleição do Secretário Geral. A eleição do candidato adequado para dirigir a instituição não deveria ser tratada como mais uma instancia de troca de favores, mas sim como uma oportunidade para fortalecer a autoridade moral e a influência da pessoa que, hoje em dia, mais se aproxima de ser o nosso <em>líder</em> comum. </p> <p><strong>Um diplomata e um funcionário público</strong></p> <p>O Secretário Geral é o chefe simbólico das Nações Unidas. Como estipula o <a href="http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/un-charter-full-text/index.html">capítulo XV</a> da Carta das Nações Unidas, é o “funcionário de mais alto nível da organização”. Deve informar a Assembleia Geral cada ano – um mecanismo particularmente útil para influenciar a agenda mundial – e dispõe de uma certa liberdade para chamar a atenção do Conselho de Segurança para qualquer ameaça contra a paz e a segurança internacional. </p> <p>A Carta, contudo, não enumera explicitamente as suas funções. Obviamente, esta é uma posição constantemente influenciada pelo contexto político. Dependendo das circunstâncias, o Secretário Geral deve esforçar-se por encontrar o termo médio entre ir mais além do seu role ou limitar-se a seguir de forma estrita a <em>letra</em> da Carta. </p> <p>A sua considerável influência deve obedecer aos princípios de independência, imparcialidade e integridade. O Secretario Geral não pode mostrar parcialidade alguma em relação a nenhum estado em particular. A sua lealdade reside unicamente nas Nações Unidas e deve tomar decisões com absoluta independência do seu estado de origem. Mas, ao depender do apoio dos estados membros, deve encontrar um equilíbrio entre os interesses de ditos estados e os da ONU. Judiciosamente, o papel de Secretário Geral da ONU foi descrito como o de “<a href="http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/un-charter-full-text/index.html">um diplomata, um advogado e um funcionário</a>” – em partes iguais. </p> <p>Foram oito as pessoas que exerceram o cargo de Secretário Geral da ONU no passado. O atual incumbente, o <a href="https://www.un.org/sg/en/biography.shtml">Sr. Ban Ki-Moon</a>, foi o primeiro cidadão da Asia Oriental em exercer dito cargo. Foi eleito por primeira vez no dia 21 de junho de 2011 e reeleito para um segundo mandato no dia 1 de janeiro de 2012. Muitos qualificam a sua performance como dececionante. Na realidade, o Sr. Ban Ki-Moon fez exatamente o que aqueles que o elegeram sabiam que ia fazer.</p> <p><strong>Mudar as regras?</strong></p> <p>O <a href="http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-xv/index.html">artigo 97</a> da Carta das Nações Unidas estabelece que o Secretário Geral “será eleito pela Assembleia Geral por recomendação do Conselho de Segurança”.</p> <p>Tradicionalmente, o Conselho de Segurança recomenda um só candidato. Compete ao mesmo escolher um candidato da forma que considere adequada, e, seguidamente, <a href="http://www.un.org/ar/sc/pdf/rules.pdf">adotar uma resolução</a> recomendando a sua eleição à Assembleia Geral. Não há nada na Carta que impeça o Conselho de Segurança de recomendar vários candidatos, mas a <a href="https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/032/62/IMG/NR003262.pdf?OpenElement">Resolução 11(I) da Assembleia Geral</a> estipula que é “desejável que o Conselho de Segurança recomende um só candidato”. </p> <p>Tendo em conta que o Sr. Ban Ki-Moon abandonará o cargo no dia 31 de dezembro de 2016, o procedimento para eleger o novo Secretário Geral já começou. O procedimento continua a ser tão antidemocrático como sempre, mas, pela primeira vez, parece ter sido adicionada ao mesmo alguma transparência. </p> <p>A ONU pediu aos candidatos que formalizassem as suas candidaturas e que expusessem a sua visão para a ONU, e para o mundo, numa <a href="http://www.dw.com/en/united-nations-begins-first-ever-public-hearing-to-choose-secretary-general/a-19182550">audiência pública</a>. Tratam-se de medidas sem precedentes que não limitam o poder do Conselho de Segurança, que decidirá em ultima instância que candidato recomendar, mas assinalam não obstante uma abertura que, como afirma o Presidente <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54912#.V9pr7vmLTIU">cessante</a> da Assembleia Geral, Mogens Lykketoft, poderia chegar a supor uma “<a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53662#.V9E3OfmLTIU">mudança das regras do jogo</a>”. </p> <p><strong>Chegou o momento de que uma mulher ocupe o cargo?</strong></p> <p><a href="http://www.unhcr.org/antonio-guterres-portugal-2005-2015.html">António Guterres</a>, Ex primeiro-ministro português que serviu como Alto Comissário da Nações Unidas para os Refugiados, é o candidato melhor colocado para ocupar o cargo, de acordo com as votações informais realizadas até à data no Conselho de Segurança. </p> <p>Os 15 membros do Conselho de Segurança, através de votações informais, optam por “encorajar”, “desencorajar” ou não formular uma opinião sobre os candidatos. Para converter-se no próximo Secretário Geral, <a href="http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-v/index.html">um candidato precisa do voto afirmativo de nove membros do Conselho</a> e não poder ser vetado por nenhum dos cinco membros permanentes (China, Rússia, França, Reino Unido e os Estados Unidos), conhecidos como os “Cincos Grandes” ou “P-5”. </p> <p>Depois da celebração da quarta de ditas votações no dia 9 de setembro, António Guterres consolidou a sua vantagem sobre os restantes candidatos (que são nove, depois da renuncia no dia 12 de setembro de Christiana Figueres, da Costa Rica). Guterres recebeu doze votos de “encorajamento”, dois votos de “desencorajamento” e um voto “sem opinião”. Miroslav Lajcak, Ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros da Eslováquia, ficou em segundo lugar, com dez votos de “encorajamento”, quatro votos de “desencorajamento”, e um “sem opinião”, seguido por Vuk Jeremic, Ex Ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros da Sérvia, e Srgjan Kerim, Ex presidente macedónio da Assembleia Geral da ONU. <a href="http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/about-us/who-we-are/director-general/biography/">Irina Bokova</a>, diretora geral da UNESCO, e pelo que parece a única mulher ainda com possibilidades de ser eleita, ficou em quinto lugar, depois de ter alcançado a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/29/antonio-guterres-united-nations-secretary-general">terceira posição na votação anterior</a>. </p> <p>É importante ter em conta que todas as votações informais que se realizaram até agora foram indiferenciadas. Esperam-se resultados mais claros a princípios de outubro, quando, numa votação com códigos de cores, saberemos se os votos de “desencorajamento” foram emitidos pelos membros <em>eleitos</em> ou pelos membros <em>permanente</em>s do Conselho de Segurança. </p> <p>Historicamente, o Secretário Geral foi selecionado em função dum <a href="http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/51/ares51-241.htm">sistema informal de rotação regional</a>. Durante este ano, existiram também pressões para <a href="http://www.womansg.org/">eleger uma mulher</a>, assim com uma campanha significante para nomear um candidato da Europa de Leste. Nunca uma mulher ou um cidadão da Europa de Leste foram eleitos para o cargo. </p> <p>Infelizmente, <a href="http://www.passblue.com/2016/09/09/guterres-leads-latest-poll-for-un-secretary-general-again-but-it-may-not-matter/">como refletem os últimos resultados</a> das votações informais, as candidatas ficaram muito atrás dos favoritos. A Secretária Geral da ONU Mulheres, a Sra. Mlambo-Ngcuka, expressou a sua “deceção e surpresa” por estes resultados. Irina Bokova, a melhor colocada para competir com Guterres, ficou num dececionante quinto lugar, enquanto que o resto das candidatas (Susana Malcorra, Helen Clark, Christiana Figueres y Natalia Gherman) ocuparam a parte inferior da lista. A esperança de nomear uma mulher parece desvanecer-se. Ainda assim, fazer frente à disparidade de género na ONU continuará sem dúvida a ser uma prioridade, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/redressing-uns-gender-gap-how-do-sg-contenders-compare">independentemente de quem seja nomeado para o cargo</a>. </p> <p><strong>Exigir reformas</strong></p> <p>Mais além das legitimas pressões para que uma mulher e/ou um cidadão da Europa de Leste assumam o cargo de Secretário Geral, a <em>natureza não democrática</em> do procedimento de eleição continua a ser um tema chave. </p> <p>Exigir a sua reforma não é algo novo. Em 2014, a <a href="http://www.wfm-igp.org/">WFM-IGP</a> e várias ONGs escreveram uma carta aberta à Assembleia Geral e aos lideres dos governos dos estados membros sugerindo várias propostas para pôr fim ao procedimento de seleção atual. </p> <p>A campanha <a href="http://www.1for7billion.org/">1 por 7 bilhões</a> – com o apoio de mais de 750 organizações de todo o mundo – exigiu um procedimento mais transparente, a celebração de audiências públicas, e que o Conselho de Segurança recomende pelo menos dois candidatos, em vez de um. </p> <p>Algumas destas exigências obtiveram respostas positivas. Pela primeira vez, celebraram-se audiências públicas com os candidatos; <a href="http://www.un.org/pga/70/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/08/15-Dec-2015_Appointment-of-Secretary-General-15-December-2015.pdf">os estados membros foram convidados a propor candidatos</a>; e os candidatos não foram escolhidos à porta fechada. Contudo, o procedimento continua muito longe de ser democrático: cabe a cinco países <em>fazer uma recomendação</em> que nos compete a todos. </p> <p><strong>Perspetivas de futuro</strong></p> <p>É preciso alterar este procedimento se a ONU quiser evitar os mesmos erros que cometeu até agora. Deve ser o mérito a guiar o procedimento de eleição, uma vez que a ONU precisa do melhor candidato possível para o cargo – alguém capaz de transcender o role de mero intermediário e que esteja disposto, se necessário, a ir mais além da letra da Carta. O género e o equilíbrio geográfico deveriam ser também, obviamente, requisitos do novo procedimento. </p> <p>As propostas da campanha <a href="http://www.1for7billion.org/">1 por 7 bilhões</a> referentes à duração do mandato e ao número de candidatos recomendados também deveriam ser implementadas. A independência ver-se-ia reforçada através da limitação do cargo a um mandato único de 7 anos, o que evitaria que o candidato se entretivesse a pensar na sua reeleição. A democracia também seria beneficiada se o Conselho de Segurança recomendasse <a href="http://www.1for7billion.org/">dois ou mais candidatos</a> à Assembleia Geral, o que encorajaria o debate dentro da instituição. </p> <p>A transparência, num momento em que a confiança nas instituições alcança novos mínimos no mundo, deve ser uma prioridade. Na <em>prática</em>, os membros permanentes do Conselho de Segurança são quem elegem o que mais perto está de ser o nosso <em>líder mundial</em>. Por tanto, seria lógico que os cidadãos e os países entendêssemos como o fazem. O Conselho de Segurança deve proporcionar a informação sobre os resultados das votações formais e informais, diferenciando claramente os votos dos membros permanentes dos do resto. </p> <p>No quadro atual, e independentemente do candidato recomendado, só nos resta esperar que não seja eleito um candidato que <em>não seja demasiado objetável</em>, como aconteceu em 2006. Incapazes como somos, por agora, de limitar o poder do Conselho de Segurança de tomar decisões em nosso nome, deveríamos optar por obriga-lo a prestar contas. É possível que os “Cinco Grandes” não estejam de acordo com a ideia de que precisamos de uma Secretário Geral forte, dinâmico e idealista. Mas o mundo, obviamente, sim que o está. </p> <p>Entretanto, o <a href="http://sicnoticias.sapo.pt/mundo/2016-09-14-Governo-portugues-confiante-que-meritos-de-Guterres-irao-leva-lo-a-ONU?utm_source=twitterfeed&amp;utm_medium=twitter&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sicnoticias-mundo+%28Sic+Not%C3%ADcias+-+mundo%29">governo português acredita</a> que os méritos de António Guterres o levarão a ocupar o cargo de Secretário Geral das Nações Unidas.&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta DemocraciaAbierta Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics Africa asia & pacific china europe india/pakistan latin america middle east north america russia & eurasia Manuel Nunes Ramires Serrano Fri, 16 Sep 2016 17:02:02 +0000 Manuel Nunes Ramires Serrano 105412 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Horse trading in the UN https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/manuel-nunes-ramires-serrano/straw-polling-in-un <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The leading candidate to succeed Mr. Ban Ki-Moon as new Secretary General of the UN is former Portuguese PM Antonio Guterres. The election procedure, however, is as undemocratic as ever. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/manuel-nunes-ramires-serrano/troca-de-favores-nas-na-es-unidas">Português</a></em></strong>&nbsp;<strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/manuel-nunes-ramires-serrano/intercambiando-favores-en-las-naciones-unidas" target="_self">Español &nbsp;</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/Guterres.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/Guterres.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>U.N. Secretary General candidate Antonio Guterres delivers his remarks in the United Nations Trusteeship Council Chamber, Tuesday, April 12, 2016. AP Photo/Richard Drew.</span></span></span></p><p><span>As the United Nations celebrates its 70</span>th<span> birthday this year, the position of Secretary General has not become any easier. The spokesman for the interests of the peoples of the world has multiple fires to put off. How to deal with an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean and the insecurity metastasis in Syria, how to address climate change, how to tackle rising populism and terrorism worldwide - the list goes on. Empowering the next Secretary General is a particularly pressing issue at this point in time, as the transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are coming to an end this year, to the </span><a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300">Sustainable Development Goals</a><span>, which will replace them, opens up a new, crucial phase for the organization. This could provide an opportunity for the UN to reflect, among other issues, on how its Secretary General is appointed. The election of the right person to lead the institution should not be seen as yet another instance of </span><em>horse trading</em><span>, but rather as an opportunity to strengthen the moral authority and influence of the person who nowadays comes closer to being our shared </span><em>leader.</em></p> <p><strong>A diplomat and a civil servant</strong></p> <p>The Secretary General is the symbolic head of the United Nations. As <a href="http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/un-charter-full-text/index.html">chapter XV</a> of the United Nations Charter stipulates, he is the “chief administrative officer of the organization”. He must report to the General Assembly annually – a particularly useful mechanism to influence the world agenda – and he enjoys discretionary power to bring to the attention of the Security Council any threat arising against international peace and security.</p> <p>The Charter, however, does not include an explicit job description. Obviously, this is a job that is influenced by the political context at all times. Depending on each circumstance, the Secretary General must strive to find the middle ground between pumping up his role or limiting it to the letter of the Charter. </p> <p>Its considerable leverage must be true to the principles of independence, impartiality and integrity. The Secretary General cannot exhibit allegiance to any particular state. His loyalty lies with the United Nations and he must make his decisions regardless of his state of origin. Depending, as he does, on the support of the member states, he or she must find a balance between their interests and those of the UN. For good reason the role of Secretary General has been described as being that of “<a href="http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/un-charter-full-text/index.html">a diplomat, an advocate and a civil servant</a>” – in equal parts. </p> <p>Eight individuals have served as Secretary General of the UN in the past. The current incumbent, <a href="https://www.un.org/sg/en/biography.shtml">Mr. Ban Ki-Moon</a>, was the first East Asian to hold office. He was first elected on June, 21st, 2011, and his second term began on January, 1st, 2012. Many consider that his performance has been disappointing. In fact, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon has done exactly what those who elected him knew he would do.</p> <p><strong>A game-changing exercise?</strong></p> <p>Article 97 of the <a href="http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-xv/index.html">United Nations Charter</a> establishes that the Secretary General “shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council”. </p> <p>Traditionally, the Security Council recommends only one candidate. It is its prerogative to privately pick a candidate, and then <a href="http://www.un.org/ar/sc/pdf/rules.pdf">adopt a resolution setting out</a> its recommendation. Nothing in the Charter prevents the Security Council from recommending several candidates, but <a href="https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/032/62/IMG/NR003262.pdf?OpenElement">GA Resolution 11 (I)</a> states that it is “desirable for the Security Council to proffer only one candidate”. </p> <p>Since Mr. Ban Ki-Moon is to step down on December, 31st, 2016, the process to elect a new Secretary General is currently under way. The process is as undemocratic as ever, but, for the first time, some transparency has been added to it. </p> <p>The UN asked candidates to send formal application letters, and to make a presentation of their vision of the UN <a href="http://www.dw.com/en/united-nations-begins-first-ever-public-hearing-to-choose-secretary-general/a-19182550">at a public hearing</a>. This unprecedented move takes no power away from the Security Council, which will ultimately decide on the candidate it wants to recommend, but it nonetheless signals a new openness which, as Mogens Lykketoft, the <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54912#.V9pr7vmLTIU" target="_blank">outgoing</a> President of the General Assembly says, may be “<a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53662#.V9E3OfmLTIU">potentially a game-changing exercise</a>”. </p> <p><strong>Is it time for a woman to get the job?</strong></p> <p><a href="http://www.unhcr.org/antonio-guterres-portugal-2005-2015.html">Antonio Guterres</a>, the former Portuguese prime-minister who served as UN High Commissioner for Refugees, is the front runner, according to the UN Security Council´s straw polls held to date. </p> <p>The 15 members of the Security Council, though informal ballots, choose to “encourage”, “discourage” or issue no opinion on any given candidate. In order to become the next Secretary General, a candidate <a href="http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-v/index.html">requires the affirmative vote of nine of its members</a>, and must not be vetoed by any of the five permanent members of the Council (China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and the United States), known as the “Big Five” or “P-5”. </p> <p>After holding the <a href="http://www.passblue.com/2016/09/09/guterres-leads-latest-poll-for-un-secretary-general-again-but-it-may-not-matter/">fourth straw poll on September, 9</a>, Antonio Guterres has consolidated his lead over the ten remaining candidates (<em>now nine, as</em> <em>Costa Rica’s Christiana Figueres withdrew from the race on September, 12</em>) to replace Mr. Ban Ki-Moon. Mr. Guterres received twelve “encourage” votes, two “discourage” votes, and one “no opinion” vote. Miroslav Lajčák, Slovakia´s foreign minister, came second, with ten “encourage votes”, four “discourage” votes, and one “no opinion", followed by Vuk Jeremić, Serbia´s former foreign minister, and Srgjan Kerim, the Macedonian former president of the General Assembly. <a href="http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/about-us/who-we-are/director-general/biography/">Irina Bokova</a>, UNESCO´s director general, and apparently the only woman still in the race, came fifth, after having ranked third <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/29/antonio-guterres-united-nations-secretary-general">in the previous straw poll</a>. </p> <p>It should be noted that all the ballots that have taken place so far have been undifferentiated straw polls. A clearer picture is expected to surface in early October when, through a colour-coded straw poll, we will know if the “discourage” votes have been cast by <em>elected</em> or <em>permanent</em> members of the Security Council.</p> <p>Historically, the Secretary General has been selected according to an <a href="http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/51/ares51-241.htm">informal system of regional rotation</a>. During this last year, there has been mounting pressure for having a <a href="http://www.womansg.org/">woman</a> as next UN Secretary General, as well as a widespread campaign to appoint a candidate from Eastern Europe. Neither a woman nor an Eastern European has ever been appointed.</p> <p>Unfortunately, <a href="http://www.passblue.com/2016/09/09/guterres-leads-latest-poll-for-un-secretary-general-again-but-it-may-not-matter/">as the latest straw-poll results reflect</a>, women candidates trail behind the favourites. The UN Women Secretary General, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka, expressed her “disappointment and surprise” at the outcome of the polls. Irina Bokova, the best-placed to challenge Mr. Guterres, came only fifth, while the remaining female candidates (Susana Malcorra, Helen Clark, Christiana Figueres and Natalia Gherman) stood at the bottom of the list. Hopes for a woman to be appointed thus seem to be fading. Still, addressing the gender gap at the UN will surely remain a priority, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/redressing-uns-gender-gap-how-do-sg-contenders-compare">independently of who gets the job</a>. </p> <p><strong>Calls for reform</strong></p> <p>Beyond the valid claims for a woman and/or an Eastern European to assume the role of Secretary General, the <em>undemocratic nature</em> of the election procedure remains a key issue to address. </p> <p>Calls for reform are not new. Back in 2014, <a href="http://www.wfm-igp.org/">WFM-IGP</a> and several NGO partners sent an open letter to both the General Assembly and the heads of government of the member states, suggesting several proposals to put an end to the current election procedure. </p> <p>The <a href="http://www.1for7billion.org/">1 for 7 billion campaign</a> -- supported by more than 750 organizations around the world – &nbsp;has called for a more transparent procedure, for public hearings to take place, and for the Security Council to recommend at least two candidates. </p> <p>Some of these demands have been met. For the first time, public hearings have taken place; <a href="http://www.un.org/pga/70/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/08/15-Dec-2015_Appointment-of-Secretary-General-15-December-2015.pdf">member states have been asked to nominate candidates</a>; and candidates have not been chosen behind closed doors. Yet, the final election procedure remains far from being democratic, secretive and outdated: it leaves it up to five countries to <em>make a recommendation</em> that concerns us all. </p> <p><strong>Looking ahead</strong></p> <p>This procedure needs to be changed if the UN is to avoid making the same mistakes all over again. Merit alone should guide the election procedure, for the UN needs the best candidate for the post, an individual who is capable of transcending the role of mere intermediary, and who is willing, if need be, to go beyond the letter of the Charter. Gender and geographical balance should also be requirements of the new procedure. </p> <p>The <a href="http://www.1for7billion.org/">1 for 7 billion campaign</a> recommendations on the term of office and the number of candidates should also be implemented. Independence would be reinforced by limiting the mandate to a 7-year single term, as the candidate would not have to think about getting himself re-elected for a second term. Democracy would also benefit if <a href="http://www.1for7billion.org/">two or more candidates were recommended</a> by the Security Council for the General Assembly to choose from, enhancing debate within the institution. </p> <p>Transparency, at a time when confidence in institutions has globally reached a new low, should be a must. In <em>practice</em>, the permanent members of the Security Council are the ones who choose the nearest thing we have <em>to a global leader</em>. Therefore, it is only logical that citizens and member countries should understand how they do it. The Security Council should provide information about the results of the straw polls and formal voting, clearly differentiating the votes of the permanent members from the rest. </p> <p>Under the current framework, and independently of the candidate recommended, we can only hope for a candidate that is not <em>too objectionable</em>, as happened in 2006. Incapable as we are, for the time being, to limit the power of the Security Council to make decisions in our name, we should do the next best thing: hold it accountable. The “Big Five” may not agree on the need for a strong, dynamic and idealistic Secretary General. But the world surely does.&nbsp;</p><p><span>Meanwhile, the Portuguese government is </span><a href="http://sicnoticias.sapo.pt/mundo/2016-09-14-Governo-portugues-confiante-que-meritos-de-Guterres-irao-leva-lo-a-ONU?utm_source=twitterfeed&amp;utm_medium=twitter&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sicnoticias-mundo+%28Sic+Not%C3%ADcias+-+mundo%29">confident</a><span> that Mr. Guterres´s merits will lead him to take over as UN Secretary General.</span></p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics democracy & power russia & eurasia north america middle east latin america europe asia & pacific Africa Manuel Nunes Ramires Serrano Thu, 15 Sep 2016 16:13:36 +0000 Manuel Nunes Ramires Serrano 105350 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Intercambiando favores en las Naciones Unidas https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/manuel-nunes-ramires-serrano/intercambiando-favores-en-las-naciones-unidas <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>El favorito para suceder a Ban Ki-Moon como Secretario General de la ONU es el ex primer ministro portugués, Antonio Guterres. Pero el proceso de elección sigue siendo poco democrático. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/manuel-nunes-ramires-serrano/troca-de-favores-nas-na-es-unidas">Português</a></strong></em>&nbsp;<strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/manuel-nunes-ramires-serrano/straw-polling-in-un" target="_self">English&nbsp;</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/Guterres_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/Guterres_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>El candidato a Secretario General de la ONU, Antonio Guterres, durante su discurso ante el United Nations Trusteeship Council Chamber. 12 de abril, 2016. AP Photo/Richard Drew. Todos los derechos reservados. </span></span></span></p><p>Las Naciones Unidas cumplen 70 años, pero el cargo de Secretario General no se ha vuelto más fácil con el paso del tiempo. El <em>portavoz</em> de los intereses de los pueblos del mundo tiene múltiples incendios que apagar. Cómo hacer frente a una crisis humanitaria sin precedentes en el Mediterráneo y a la metástasis de la inseguridad en Siria, cómo lidiar con el cambio climático, cómo enfrentarse al populismo y al terrorismo en todo el mundo – la lista es larga. Fortalecer la posición del Secretario General es una cuestión especialmente urgente en este momento, ya que los Objetivos de Desarrollo del Milenio (ODM), que terminan este año, darán paso a los <a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300">Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible</a>, inaugurando una fase crucial para el futuro de la organización. Esta transición podría suponer una oportunidad para que la ONU reflexionase, entre otras cuestiones, sobre cómo se lleva a cabo el proceso de nombramiento del Secretario General.&nbsp; La elección del candidato adecuado para dirigir la institución no debería ser vista como otra instancia de intercambio de favores, sino como una oportunidad para fortalecer la autoridad moral y la influencia de la persona que, hoy por hoy, se aproxima más a ser nuestro <em>líder </em>común. </p> <p><strong>Un diplomático y un funcionario público</strong></p> <p>El Secretario General es el jefe simbólico de las Naciones Unidas. Como estipula el <a href="http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/un-charter-full-text/index.html">capítulo XV</a> de la Carta de las Naciones Unidas, es el "funcionario de mayor rango de la organización". Debe informar a la Asamblea General cada año - un mecanismo particularmente útil para influir en la agenda mundial - y goza de discrecionalidad para llamar la atención del Consejo de Seguridad ante cualquier amenaza contra la paz y la seguridad internacional. </p> <p>La Carta, sin embargo, no describe explícitamente sus funciones. Obviamente, este es un cargo que en todo momento se ve influenciado por el contexto político. Dependiendo de las circunstancias, el Secretario General debe esforzarse por encontrar el término medio entre crecerse en su papel o limitarse a seguir estrictamente la letra de la Carta. </p> <p>Su considerable influencia debe obedecer a los principios de independencia, imparcialidad e integridad. El Secretario General no puede mostrar parcialidad hacia ningún estado en particular. Se debe únicamente a las Naciones Unidas y tiene que tomar sus decisiones con absoluta independencia de cuál sea su estado de origen. Pero al depender del apoyo de los estados miembros, debe encontrar un equilibrio entre los intereses de estos estados y los de la ONU. Con buen criterio, el papel de Secretario General ha sido descrito como el de "<a href="http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/un-charter-full-text/index.html">un diplomático, un abogado y un funcionario</a>" - a partes iguales.</p> <p>Ocho son las personas que han ocupado el puesto de Secretario General de la ONU en el pasado. El actual titular, el Sr. <a href="https://www.un.org/sg/en/biography.shtml">Ban Ki-Moon</a>, fue el primero que procedía de Asia Oriental. Fue elegido por primera vez el 21 de junio de 2011 y comenzó su segundo mandato el 1 de enero de 2012. Muchos califican su actuación de decepcionante. En realidad, el Sr. Ban Ki-Moon ha hecho exactamente lo que aquellos que lo eligieron sabían que iba a hacer.</p> <p><strong>¿Cambiar las reglas?</strong></p> <p>El artículo 97 de la <a href="http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-xv/index.html">Carta de las Naciones Unidas</a> establece que el Secretario General "será nombrado por la Asamblea General a recomendación del Consejo de Seguridad".</p> <p>Tradicionalmente, el Consejo de Seguridad recomienda un solo candidato. Es su prerrogativa escoger un candidato de la forma que considere oportuna, y luego <a href="http://www.un.org/ar/sc/pdf/rules.pdf">adoptar una resolución</a> recomendando su elección a la Asamblea General. No hay nada en la Carta que impida que el Consejo de Seguridad recomiende varios candidatos, pero la <a href="https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/032/62/IMG/NR003262.pdf?OpenElement">Resolución 11(I) de la Asamblea General</a> estipula que es "deseable que el Consejo de Seguridad recomiende un solo candidato".</p> <p>Teniendo en cuenta que el Sr. Ban Ki-Moon dejará el cargo el 31 de diciembre de 2016, el proceso para elegir nuevo secretario general está en marcha. El proceso sigue siendo tan antidemocrático como siempre, pero, por primera vez, se le ha añadido algo de transparencia. </p> <p>La ONU pidió cartas de solicitud formales a los candidatos y que presentaran su visión de la organización en una <a href="http://www.dw.com/en/united-nations-begins-first-ever-public-hearing-to-choose-secretary-general/a-19182550">vista pública</a>. Se trata de medidas sin precedentes que no limitan el poder del Consejo de Seguridad, que decidirá en última instancia qué candidato recomienda, pero indican no obstante una apertura que, como afirma el Presidente <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54912#.V9pr7vmLTIU">saliente</a> de la Asamblea General, Mogens Lykketoft, podría llegar a suponer "<a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53662#.V9E3OfmLTIU">un cambio de las reglas del juego</a>".</p> <p><strong>¿Llegó el momento de que una mujer ocupe el cargo? </strong></p> <p><a href="http://www.unhcr.org/antonio-guterres-portugal-2005-2015.html">Antonio Guterres</a>, el ex primer ministro portugués que sirvió como Alto Comisionado de la ONU para los Refugiados, es el candidato mejor situado para ocupar el cargo, según llas votaciones informales realizadas en el Consejo de Seguridad de las Naciones Unidas hasta la fecha.</p> <p>Los 15 miembros del Consejo de Seguridad, a través de votaciones informales, optan por "alentar", "desalentar" o no emitir opinión sobre los candidatos. Para llegar a convertirse en el próximo Secretario General, <a href="http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-v/index.html">un candidato necesita el voto afirmativo de nueve miembros del Consejo</a> y no puede ser vetado por ninguno de los cinco miembros permanentes (China, Rusia, Francia, el Reino Unido y los Estados Unidos), conocidos como los "Cinco Grandes" o "P-5".</p> <p>Tras la celebración de <a href="http://www.passblue.com/2016/09/09/guterres-leads-latest-poll-for-un-secretary-general-again-but-it-may-not-matter/">la cuarta de dichas votaciones</a> el día 9 de septiembre, Antonio Guterres ha consolidado su ventaja sobre los demás candidatos restantes (que son nueve, tras la renuncia el 12 de septiembre de Christiana Figueres, de Costa Rica). Guterres recibió doce votos de "aliento”, dos votos de “desaliento" y un voto "sin opinión". Miroslav Lajcak, ministro de Asuntos Exteriores de Eslovaquia, quedó en segundo lugar, con diez votos de "aliento", cuatro votos de "desaliento", y uno "sin opinión", seguido por Vuk Jeremic, ex Ministro de Asuntos Exteriores de Serbia, y Srgjan Kerim, el ex presidente macedonio de la Asamblea General. <a href="http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/about-us/who-we-are/director-general/biography/">Irina Bokova</a>, directora general de la UNESCO, y al parecer la única mujer aún con posibilidades de competir por el puesto, quedó en quinto lugar, tras haber quedado <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/29/antonio-guterres-united-nations-secretary-general">tercera en la anterior votación</a>. </p> <p>Cabe señalar que todas votaciones informales que han tenido lugar hasta el momento han sido indiferenciadas. Se esperan resultados más claros para principios de octubre, cuando, en una votación con códigos de colores, sabremos si los votos de "desaliento" han sido emitidos por los miembros <em>elegidos</em> o por miembros <em>permanentes</em> del Consejo de Seguridad.</p> <p>Históricamente, se ha seleccionado el Secretario General sobre la base de un <a href="http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/51/ares51-241.htm">sistema informal de rotación regional</a>. Durante este último año, ha habido además presiones crecientes para <a href="http://www.womansg.org/">elegir a una mujer</a>, así como una amplia campaña para nombrar a un candidato de Europa del Este. Nunca ninguna mujer ni ningún ciudadano de Europa del Este han sido elegidos para el cargo. </p> <p>Por desgracia, <a href="http://www.passblue.com/2016/09/09/guterres-leads-latest-poll-for-un-secretary-general-again-but-it-may-not-matter/">como reflejan los últimos resultados</a> de las votaciones informales, las candidatas van quedando muy por detrás de los favoritos. La Secretaria General de ONU Mujeres, la Sra. Mlambo-Ngcuka, expresó su "decepción y sorpresa" por estos resultados. Irina Bokova, la mejor situada para competir con Guterres, sólo logró llegar en quinto lugar, mientras el resto de las candidatas (Susana Malcorra, Helen Clark, Christiana Figueres y Natalia Gherman) ocupaban la parte inferior de la lista. La esperanza de que se nombre a una mujer parece esfumarse. Aun así, hacer frente a la brecha de género en la ONU continuará sin duda siendo una prioridad, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/redressing-uns-gender-gap-how-do-sg-contenders-compare">independientemente de quien se haga con el cargo</a>. </p> <p><strong>Exigir reformas</strong></p> <p>Más allá de la legítima demanda de que una mujer y/o un ciudadano de Europa de Este asuman el cargo de Secretario General, la <em>naturaleza no democrática</em> del procedimiento de elección sigue siendo un tema clave. </p> <p>Pedir su reforma no es algo nuevo en la organización. En 2014, la <a href="http://www.wfm-igp.org/">WFM-IGP</a> y varias ONGs enviaron una carta abierta a la Asamblea General y a los jefes de gobierno de los estados miembros &nbsp;sugiriendo varias propuestas para poner fin al procedimiento de elección actual.</p> <p>La campaña <a href="http://www.1for7billion.org/">1 por 7 mil millones</a> - con el apoyo de más de 750 organizaciones de todo el mundo – ha exigido un procedimiento más transparente, la celebración de vistas públicas, y que el Consejo de Seguridad recomiende al menos dos candidatos y no sólo uno. </p> <p>Algunas de estas exigencias han obtenido respuestas positivas. Por primera vez, se han celebrado vistas públicas con los candidatos; <a href="http://www.un.org/pga/70/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/08/15-Dec-2015_Appointment-of-Secretary-General-15-December-2015.pdf">los estados miembros han sido invitados a presentar candidatos</a>; y los candidatos no han sido elegidos a puerta cerrada. Sin embargo, el procedimiento de elección final sigue distando de ser democrático: se deja en manos de cinco países h<em>acer una recomendación</em> que nos concierne a todos.</p> <p><strong>Mirar hacia adelante</strong></p> <p>Es preciso cambiar este procedimiento si la ONU quiere evitar caer en los mismos errores que hasta ahora. El criterio que debería guiar el procedimiento de elección debería ser el mérito, ya que la ONU necesita el mejor candidato posible para el puesto - alguien capaz de trascender el papel de mero intermediario y que esté dispuesto, si es necesario, a ir más allá de la letra de la Carta. El género y el equilibrio geográfico deberían ser también, por supuesto, requisitos del nuevo procedimiento.</p> <p>Las propuestas de la campaña <a href="http://www.1for7billion.org/">1 por 7 mil millones</a> en cuanto a la duración del mandato y el número de los candidatos recomendados también deberían implementarse. La independencia se vería reforzada mediante la limitación del cargo a un mandato único de 7 años, con lo que el candidato no tendría que ocuparse de pensar en su reelección. La democracia también se beneficiaría si el Consejo de Seguridad recomendase <a href="http://www.1for7billion.org/">dos o más candidatos</a> a la Asamblea General, lo que alentaría el debate dentro de la institución.</p> <p>La transparencia, en un momento en que la confianza en las instituciones alcanza nuevos mínimos en el mundo, debe ser una prioridad muy clara. En la <em>práctica,</em> los miembros permanentes del Consejo de Seguridad son los que eligen lo que más se parece a un <em>líder mundial</em>. Por lo tanto, sería lógico que los ciudadanos y los países entendiéramos como lo hacen. El Consejo de Seguridad debe proporcionar información sobre los resultados de las votaciones formales e informales, diferenciando claramente los votos de los miembros permanentes de los del resto.</p> <p>En el marco actual, e independientemente del candidato recomendado, sólo nos queda esperar que salga elegido un candidato que <em>no sea demasiado objetable</em>, como ocurrió en 2006. Incapaces como somos, por ahora, de limitar el poder del Consejo de Seguridad de tomar decisiones en nuestro nombre, deberíamos optar por obligarlo a rendir cuentas. Puede que los “Cinco Grandes” no estén de acuerdo con la idea que necesitamos un Secretario General fuerte, dinámico e idealista. Pero el mundo, por supuesto, sí&nbsp; lo está.</p> <p>Mientras tanto, el <a href="http://sicnoticias.sapo.pt/mundo/2016-09-14-Governo-portugues-confiante-que-meritos-de-Guterres-irao-leva-lo-a-ONU?utm_source=twitterfeed&amp;utm_medium=twitter&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sicnoticias-mundo+%28Sic+Not%C3%ADcias+-+mundo%29">gobierno portugués confía</a> en que los méritos de Antonio Guterres le llevarán a ocupar el cargo.&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta DemocraciaAbierta Civil society Culture Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics russia & eurasia north america middle east latin america india/pakistan europe asia & pacific Africa Manuel Nunes Ramires Serrano Thu, 15 Sep 2016 12:32:59 +0000 Manuel Nunes Ramires Serrano 105373 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Papeles de Panamá: "una vieja tradición de la piratería inglesa" https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/maxim-edwards-francesc-badia-i-dalmases-adam-ramsay/papeles-de-panam-una-vieja-tra <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>Editores de openDemocracyUK, openDemocracyRussia y DemocraciaAbierta&nbsp;comentan las implicaciones de los "Papeles de Panamá".<A href="https://opendemocracy.net/maxim-edwards-francesc-badia-i-dalmases-adam-ramsay/panama-papers-old-tradition-of-english-piracy" target=_blank><EM><STRONG> English</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <P><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/British Overseas Territories.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="269" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Territorios británicos de ultramar, muchos de los cuales han sido citados en las filtraciones. </span></span></span></p> <P><STRONG>Francesc Badia i Dalmases, Director, </strong><A href="http://opendemocracy.net/democraciaAbierta"><STRONG>democraciaAbierta</strong></a><STRONG>: "una vieja tradición de la piratería inglesa” </strong></p> <P>"Paseando por cualquier puerto recreativo del Mediterráneo o del Caribe cualquiera puede&nbsp;identificar un número no desdeñable de banderas de Panamá ondeando en la popa de los súper-yates de mayor eslora, amarrados con displicencia a lujosos muelles. Otros pabellones de conveniencia incluyen San Vicente y las Granadinas, Bahamas, Bermuda, las Islas Caimán, Antigua y Barbuda… paraísos centenarios; una vieja tradición de la piratería inglesa. Y permanecen activos, si bien ahora operan de una manera distinta, a otra escala. Ya no hay necesidad lanzarse al abordaje y salir ciñendo con el botín a bordo: uno puede estar sentado tranquilamente en un elegante despacho en Londres o en Zúrich, y ordenar sus transferencias. Pero las aguas –ahora conocidas como internet- se están volviendo más y más traicioneras, puesto que unos cuantos hackers y filtradores de secretos las andan navegando con esquifes ligeros, a la caza de grandes tiburones y demás peces gordos.</p> <P>Mossack Fonseca quizás no sea una filial de&nbsp;<EM>Francis Drake&nbsp;y Asociados</em>, pero es el bufete que su banquero le recomendará si usted quiere obtener, para su súper-yate, el pabellón que más le convenga. Los once millones de documentos filtrados de ese despacho de abogados panameño (algunas informaciones apuntan que los filtradores fueron empleados de la filial brasileña de Mossack Fonseca) señalan directamente a un gran número de millonarios y políticos poderosos y a sus círculos de amigos íntimos y familiares. Hasta donde sabemos, algunos importantes líderes latinoamericanos también se han visto claramente expuestos a la filtración. Esto no ha hecho más que comenzar, pero ya parece muy prometedor.</p> <P>Desde el actual presidente argentino Mauricio Macri, hasta el antiguo secretario de Néstor&nbsp;Kirchner, pasando por los financiadores de Keiko Fujimori, candidata presidencial en Perú, y llegando Juan Armando Hinojosa, el constructor preferido del presidente Enrique Peña Nieto, a quien su esposa compró la famosa y polémica mansión, conocida como la “casa blanca”. La lista se alarga con un buen número de&nbsp; políticos y empresarios brasileños, ya afectados por el escándalo de corrupción de Petrobras, el <EM>Lava Jato</em>, hasta el antiguo guardaespaldas de Hugo Chávez, que le encargó a los chicos de Mossack Fonseca que le ayudaran a establecer algunas compañías off-shore, para tener sus ahorros a buen recaudo.</p> <P>Todo esto será una buena noticia para la transparencia y la rendición de cuentas, pero puede echar leña al fuego del descrédito enorme de la clase política latinoamericana que está barriendo el continente, y que puede acarrear problemas suplementarios en forma de <EM>salvapatrias</em>”.</p> <P><STRONG>Max Edwards, Commissioning editor, </strong><A href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia"><STRONG>oDR</strong></a><STRONG>: “El problema es debido, tanto a un problema sistémico en el corazón del consenso económico, como a los deslices morales de los dirigentes en toda Eurasia”</strong></p> <P>&nbsp;“Entre las elites post-soviéticas la corrupción no es una novedad para nadie, y menos para sus propios ciudadanos. Hay tours en autobús, organizados por opositores rusos, para ver las propiedades de los oligarcas en Londres, y todos los ucranianos recuerdan la opulencia hortera de la mansión de Yanúkovych en Mezhyhirya, cuando ésta se abrió al público. Muchos estados de toda Eurasia se enfrentan a oscuras perspectivas económicas, ante la reticencia generalizada a reconocerlo. Con bastantes menos recursos con los que jugar, las élites rusas o kazajas se están encontrando con dificultades para mantener vivos los contratos sociales con los que la gente accede a distanciarse de la política a cambio de mejorar su calidad de vida. </p> <P>Los papeles de Panamá encierran un tesoro de revelaciones. Especialmente clave entre éstas resultan las que implican al círculo íntimo del presidente Putin: un chelista amigo de la infancia, “donaciones” y “préstamos” de los bancos rusos a empresarios, y una red de holdings en el BVI. También el Cáusaso Sur ve ha visto afectado: en esta fase, sería algo sorprendente que la familia del líder de Azerbaiyán, Aliyev, no aparezca en una investigación de este tipo. Hay revelaciones acerca del discreto oligarca Bidzina Ivanishvili, considerado por todos como el poder y el bolsillo detrás del partido gobernante en Georgia. Azerbaiyán amaneció en 2016 con protestas extendidas por todo el país. En Georgia, este año se han visto escándalos de vigilancia masiva, huelgas de mineros, una protesta estudiantil, y el país se enfrenta a elecciones generales en otoño. </p> <P>Quizás no haya repercusiones políticas para Putin y su camarilla. Mientras el portavoz del Kremlin, Peskov, ha desdeñado las revelaciones como una “ataque informativo”, los medios estatales se muestran encantados de informar sobre las dificultades del líder ucraniano Petro Poroshenko. La confianza popular en el presidente y en las instituciones políticas en Ucrania ha tocado suelo varias veces, y los medios de comunicación dominantes, propiedad de los oligarcas más poderosos (Akhmetov, Kolomoisky, Pinchuk), se han mostrado menos que condescendientes en sus diarios. El comportamiento de la elite ucraniana,&nbsp;en un contexto económico catastrófico y con un conflicto armado en marcha, ha sido despreciable. El 21 de agosto del 2014, mientras 27 soldados ucranianos murieron en la batalla de Iloavisk en el Donbás, Petro Poroshenko registraba una compañía para realizar transferencias offshore en las Islas Vírgenes Británicas desde su empresa de caramelos Roshen. Su futuro político parece hoy más exiguo que nunca. </p> <P>Aún así, la rabia contra estos excesos, aunque del todo justificada, es sólo una parte de la fotografía. No hay excusa para el comportamiento de las elites en Azerbaiyán, Georgia, Rusia y Ucrania, pero éste ha sido posible gracias a la política de puertas abiertas para las finanzas en el Reino Unido y sus muchos territorios&nbsp;dependientes.<STRONG> </strong>El problema se debe, tanto a un problema sistémico en el corazón del consenso económico, como a los deslices morales de los dirigentes en toda Eurasia.”&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <P><STRONG>Adam Ramsey, editor, </strong><A href="http://opendemocracy.net/uk"><STRONG>openDemocracyUK</strong></a><STRONG>: “Si queremos entender el Reino Unido de hoy, primero debemos darnos cuenta de que nuestro principal&nbsp;rol económico es, probablemente, nuestra red de paraísos fiscales”.</strong></p> <P>Existe la tentación, cuando miramos los&nbsp;papeles de Panamá, de empezar a buscar nombres de políticos de tu propio país que&nbsp;aparezcan implicados. Si se es británico, y se sigue este patrón, se encontrarán pocas sorpresas en la información que ha aparecido hasta ahora. </p> <P>Entre los muchos miles de nombres que aparecen listados en la filtración, probablemente implicados en asuntos fiscales dudosos, no puede haber una aparición menos sorprendente que la de la baronesa Pamela Sharples, viuda del antiguo gobernador de las Bermudas. Hasta toparse con Lord Ashcroft, ¿quién, si no, hubiese llamado más la atención? Y ahí está Michael Mates, el antiguo diputado Tory, que dimitió en el 2010 en medio de un escándalo empresarial. Y tenemos al padre de David Cameron,&nbsp;aunque esto último tampoco sorprende a casi nadie. </p> <P>Pero esto es equivocarse de foco: no sólo sobre la cuestión que trata esta monumental filtración, sino de la cuestión del Reino Unido. Porque es difícil mirar todo este asunto y no ver al Reino Unido en el centro del mismo. O, por lo menos, al Estado Británico que, podría argumentarse, es una cosa distinta.</p> <P>Hay, como se ve, algunos hechos importantes sobre el Estado Británico que casi nunca se mencionan. Como el hecho de que es el responsable de más territorios en el hemisferio Sur que en el Norte, y de más pingüinos que ningún otro gobierno, de que existen hasta dieciocho legislaturas bajo el auspicio de Westmister y que, entre ellas, se cuenta, de lejos, la red más importante de paraísos fiscales y áreas opacas de todo el mundo. </p> <P>Con la City de Londres como centro de operaciones, la red británica de paraísos fiscales, la regulación y otra legislación dudosa abarca desde las dependencias de la Corona, en primer lugar –las islas de Mann, Guernsey y Jersey-&nbsp; hasta los Territorios Británicos de Ultramar: las Islas Vírgenes, las Bermudas, las Islas Caimán. Desde allí, la red se extiende a lugares como Hong Kong: dejó de estar bajo dominio británico desde 1997 pero, de acuerdo con Nicholas Shaxston, aún alimenta con “miles de millones a la City”.</p> <P>Mirando los documentos filtrados de Mossack Fonseca una cosa parece clara: la red británica aparece otra vez en el centro del asunto. Más de la mitad de las compañías listadas en los documentos están registradas en el Reino Unido o en sus territorios de ultramar, y Hong Kong juega un papel enorme.</p> <P>Es evidente que esto no debería sorprender. El Reino Unido, desde hace ya algún tiempo, es percibido como la capital global del lavado de dinero. Y a nadie le espanta que no se haya hecho nada para evitarlo. En el 2010, dos años después de que hundieran la economía mundial, la City pagó más de la mitad de la campaña electoral del Partido Conservador, ayudándoles (junto con el mencionado Lord Ashcroft) a saltar la valla, con la muleta hecha a medida de los Liberal-Demócratas. Aunque, claro está, los laboristas hicieron bien poco para la regulación del sector durante los 13 años precedentes. </p> <P>Si queremos entender el Reino Unido moderno, tenemos que darnos cuenta primero de que nuestro rol&nbsp;principal en el mundo es, probablemente, mantener&nbsp;nuestra red de paraísos fiscales. Después de todo, se estima que unos 21 billones de dólares descansan en cuentas offshore, sitas en territorios la mayor parte de los cuales hemos visto que pertenecen al Reino Unido. Nuestro propio PIB alcanza sólo los 3 billones de dólares, más o menos.</p> <P>Segundo, tenemos que afrontar las serias implicaciones que tiene nuestro papel como capital global del lavado de dinero: una función que empuja hacia arriba el precio de la Libra Esterlina, haciendo que otras exportaciones sean imposibles de costear (adiós al acero), y dispara el coste de las viviendas en Londres y en el Sur Este, alimentando una vasta burbuja especulativa, que chupa inversiones del resto de la economía.</p> <P>Y tercero, tenemos que pensar cómo esta incipiente realidad económica interactúa con nuestra política: no a través de la obvia corrupción del soborno directo, sino a través de las puertas giratorias entre el gobierno y el sector privado, a través de redes de amigos del colegio y grupos de amistades, a través de donaciones perfectamente legales, y a través del dominio de los medios de comunicación. </p> <P>Éste es, sospecho, el cuadro que la enorme filtración del bufete de abogados en Panamá nos ayudará a completar, ni que sea un poco. Será un proceso fascinante. Mientras tanto, pueden ustedes leer mi guía de los Territorios Británicos de Ultramar”. </p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta DemocraciaAbierta Civil society Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality Ideas International politics russia & eurasia north america middle east latin america europe asia & pacific Africa Adam Ramsay Francesc Badia i Dalmases Maxim Edwards Mon, 04 Apr 2016 18:46:14 +0000 Maxim Edwards, Francesc Badia i Dalmases and Adam Ramsay 101118 at https://www.opendemocracy.net La pobreza mundial: los errores del Nobel de Economía https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/vicen-navarro/la-pobreza-mundial-los-errores-del-nobel-de-econom <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>La pobreza no es un problema individual de falta de recursos que puede resolverse a través de la educación, como defienden Angus Deaton y el Banco Mundial. El problema es la forma en que se distribuyen los recursos. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/vicen-navarro/world-poverty-misconceptions-of-winner-of-nobel-prize-in-economics" target="_blank"><strong><em>English. </em></strong></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/lkjh_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Angus Deaton, Premio Nobel de Economía 2015 </span></span></span></p><p>El otorgamiento del mal llamado Premio Nobel de Economía (mal llamado pues no lo otorga la Fundación Nobel, sino un banco) al profesor escocés de la Universidad de Princeton, el Sr. Angus Deaton, debido a su trabajo sobre la pobreza mundial, se ha considerado (correctamente) como un indicador de la preocupación que un gran número de organismos internacionales están expresando sobre el crecimiento de la pobreza en el mundo, y su alivio de que, según la opinión optimista del Sr. Deaton, tal realidad es reversible, siendo posible que, incluso dentro del ordenamiento capitalista actual de los sistemas económicos vigentes en la mayoría de países donde se concentra la pobreza, esta puede eliminarse. </p><p>Según el nuevo Premio Nobel de Economía, se necesitaría una transferencia de fondos –relativamente menor- de los países ricos a los países pobres, junto con cambios en estos últimos, con mayor número de campañas educativas dedicadas a su población, lo que sería suficiente para que millones de personas dejaran de ser pobres. En realidad, el Sr. Deaton considera que el aumento de la escolarización ha sido el mayor motor de progreso a lo largo de los siglos, y la mayor causa de la reducción de la pobreza y del mejoramiento del bienestar de la población. Un indicador de ello ha sido el aumento de la longevidad (años de vida que una persona vivirá), que él atribuye al crecimiento de la población que tiene educación, lo cual, según el Sr. Deaton, permite a los pobres conseguir lo que se llama el capital humano, que les permitiría salir de la pobreza y ascender en la escala social.</p> <p>Esta visión y entendimiento de la pobreza es ampliamente aceptada en un gran número de instituciones internacionales (que incluyen el Fondo Monetario Internacional y el Banco Mundial, así como una gran parte de ONGs e instituciones gubernamentales y partidos políticos de sensibilidad conservadora y liberal -sin excluir partidos políticos de tradición socioliberal, como es el caso de varios partidos socialdemócratas europeos, incluyendo, por cierto, el PSOE-). En todas estas instancias, aumentar el gasto educativo se considera condición sine qua non para eliminar la pobreza.</p> <p><strong>¿Cuál es el problema con esta definición de pobreza?</strong></p> <p>Esta visión de la pobreza, sin embargo, tiene varios problemas. Uno es definir pobreza en función del número de recursos que el individuo tiene. Este nivel de recursos se consideró por mucho tiempo que era de un poco más de un dólar al día, y que ahora ha subido a 1,9 dólares al día. Por cierto, hay que aclarar que lo que se presenta como un dólar al día no es, en realidad, un dólar al día. Para muchísimos países de un bajo nivel de riqueza, el hecho de que una persona tenga un dólar al día se consideraría que tal cantidad es más que respetable para poder vivir sin ser pobre. Ahora bien, cuando el Banco Mundial habla de un dólar al día no quiere decir que la persona tenga a su alcance un dólar estadounidense, sino que tiene la cantidad de moneda existente en el país donde vive el pobre que este necesita para poder comprar los mismos productos que se pueden comprar en EEUU con un dólar. Si en EEUU con un dólar se puede comprar una barra de pan, pues el dólar por día en la India quiere decir la cantidad de moneda india, la rupia, que se necesita para comprar una barra de pan. Esta cantidad, como he dicho antes, ha ido aumentando, pasando de 1,25 dólares al día (1.200 millones de personas, de los cuales un tercio, 400 millones son niños) a casi 2 dólares.</p> <p><strong>¿Está descendiendo la pobreza en el mundo?</strong></p> <p>En base en este criterio, se asume que el número de pobres está disminuyendo, pues hay menos gente cada año que está en esta categoría. Pero se ignora frecuentemente que ello se debe al gran crecimiento económico de India y China, que juntos suponen algo más de un tercio de la población mundial. Pero en esta nota optimista se olvida que en otras partes del mundo, como en África, hay más personas que viven en extrema pobreza ahora que hace 30 años (no solo en números absolutos, sino también en términos proporcionales).</p> <p>El mayor problema, sin embargo, en esta definición de pobreza, es la manera como se conceptualiza la pobreza, la cual se define como mera ausencia de recursos. Según esta conceptualización, el problema de la pobreza es la falta de recursos por parte del individuo que es pobre. Esta definición parece razonable, pero contiene un gran error, pues se centra única y exclusivamente en los recursos que la persona tiene, sin tener en cuenta los recursos existentes en la colectividad a la cual pertenece y de los cuales la persona se beneficia. El valor de subsistencia de un dólar por día para una persona es muy distinto en una sociedad que tenga sanidad pública, por ejemplo, que en una sociedad en que el individuo que tenga que pagar para acceder al sistema sanitario. El contexto en el que vive la persona es de especial importancia para saber qué recursos tiene una persona, pues a los recursos privados (el dólar por día) hay que añadir los recursos públicos. Ni Angus Deaton ni el Banco Mundial toman en cuenta los recursos públicos que pueden condicionar que un individuo teniendo los mismos recursos privados pueda o no ser pobre, dependiendo de otros recursos de carácter público existentes en su sociedad. La definición de pobreza que ellos dan da excesiva importancia a los recursos privados, excluyendo los públicos, fijándose solo en la cantidad de recursos que el individuo puede comprar con el dinero que tiene. Esta visión privatizadora y mercantil de la pobreza es una visión sesgada que dificulta la comprensión de la pobreza.</p> <p><strong>La pobreza es un concepto relacional</strong></p> <p>Pero a este error hay que sumarle otro, consecuencia también de centrarse en el individuo sin analizar su relación con los otros individuos en la misma colectividad. Dos personas con el mismo número de recursos monetarios pero viviendo en dos países distintos pueden catalogarse como pobres en una sociedad y dejar de serlo en la otra. Que se definan como pobres o no depende de la cantidad de dinero que el individuo tenga en relación con los demás individuos en aquella colectividad. En otras palabras, la pobreza es un concepto relacional. En realidad, si todas las personas del mundo fueran pobres, no habría pobreza en el mundo, pues al no haber otras personas con otros niveles de recursos, la persona no se sentiría ni sería pobre. La pobreza, pues, depende del contexto en el que vive la persona definida como pobre. Veamos los datos.</p> <p>Una persona pobre en el barrio pobre del Bronx en Nueva York, EEUU, tiene más recursos físicos y monetarios (televisión, dólares, coche, móvil, mayor espacio de vivienda, transferencias públicas de tipo asistencial, etc.) que una persona de clase media en Ghana (África). Si el mundo fuera una sociedad, el pobre del Bronx, Nueva York, EEUU, pertenecería a la clase media mundial, y la persona de clase media de Ghana pertenecería a la clase pobre mundial. Y, sin embargo (y esto es de una enorme importancia), utilizando incluso el mismo indicador que utiliza Deaton (la esperanza de vida –longevidad- para definir progreso) nos encontramos con la situación paradójica de que el pobre a nivel mundial (la persona de clase media de Ghana) vive 15 años más que la persona de clase media a nivel mundial (el pobre del Bronx). Parece paradójico que el que tiene más recursos (la persona del Bronx) y es menos pobre a nivel mundial, tenga menos años de vida que el otro (el africano de clase media) que tiene menos recursos. Y es ahí donde fallan las teorías de Deaton y de la mayoría del establishment antipobreza, que cree que pobreza es un problema individual de falta de recursos que además se puede resolver a base de educación.</p> <p><strong>La pobreza no es un concepto absoluto, sino relativo</strong></p> <p>La pobreza no es un concepto absoluto, sino relativo. Que seas pobre o no y que se te defina como que seas pobre o no, depende de dónde estés ubicado en la estructura social de un país. No se puede tomar al individuo fuera del contexto económico, político y social donde vive. Y ello nos lleva a la raíz del problema que no es la falta de recursos sino la manera como están distribuidos. La distribución de los recursos a nivel nacional, así como a nivel internacional es el tema fundamental que la sabiduría convencional sobre la pobreza reproducida por el Banco Mundial y el Sr Deaton no tocan.</p> <p>Una persona pobre del Bronx en EEUU está en el fondo de la sociedad, una sociedad profundamente desigual y enormemente polarizada en la que existe poco apoyo colectivo (el Estado del Bienestar en EEUU es muy deficiente, como lo muestra que el 48% de pacientes con enfermedades terminales -es decir, que se están muriendo- estén angustiados por saber cómo pagarán –ellos o sus familias- sus facturas médicas). Es más, este pobre del Bronx está enormemente frustrado, pues la distancia social y económica de él o ella con el promedio de la sociedad estadounidense es enorme, con lo cual se ve abrumado y con pocas posibilidades de salir del fondo del pozo, lo cual crea una gran frustración y patología, responsable de su menor longevidad. La persona de clase media en Ghana, por el contrario, no está por debajo, sino por encima del promedio de la sociedad en la que vive, y por lo tanto, no tiene esta frustración y alienación frente al resto de la sociedad como resultado de la ausencia de una distancia difícil de corregir, algo que sí le ocurre al pobre del Bronx.</p> <p>Es ahí donde el énfasis en transferir rentas a los pobres para resolver la pobreza es insuficiente. Es conocido entre los expertos en política social que gran parte de las medidas antipobreza que están basadas en la transferencia de fondos públicos de carácter asistencial tienen escasa eficacia en resolver dicha pobreza. Toda la evidencia existente muestra que tales transferencias públicas a las poblaciones pobres, aun cuando necesarias para aliviar la pobreza, son ineficaces para resolver esta en un país. Un tanto parecido ocurre con el énfasis en la educación como medida para salir de la pobreza. Son medidas necesarias, pero insuficientes. Lo que se requiere para eliminar la pobreza son medidas públicas altamente redistributivas, que reduzcan las distancias económicas, financieras, políticas, mediáticas y sociales, que son las causas de la pobreza. La evidencia es abrumadora en este sentido. A mayor desigualdad en un país, mayor es su pobreza. De ahí que lo que se requiere para eliminar la pobreza es la redistribución de los recursos en un país, encaminada a reducir las desigualdades, el tema que es precisamente tabú de los organismos internacionales.</p> <p>De lo dicho hasta ahora, se debe concluir que enviar dinero de los países ricos a los pobres no ayuda a disminuir la pobreza, a no ser que estos recursos se dedicaran a medidas redistributivas, que raramente tienen lugar. En realidad, si los países ricos quisieran ayudar a eliminar la pobreza en los países pobres, lo podrían hacer fácilmente, ayudando a redistribuir la&nbsp; enorme concentración de la riqueza que existe en aquellos países. Que no lo hagan es porque muy frecuentemente son los mayores aliados de aquellas estructuras de poder que controlan y se benefician de la concentración de la riqueza en dichos países. El lector entenderá también porque las tesis expuestas en mi artículo no tienen la visibilidad que tienen las del Sr. Deaton o del Banco Mundial, pues las primeras, con su énfasis en la redistribución, amenazan a los grupos de mayor riqueza en un país que tiene gran influencia, cuando no control, de los mayores medios de información y persuasión del país. Así de claro.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>Este artículo fue publicado previamente por <a href="http://lalineadefuego.info/" target="_blank"><em>La línea de fuego</em></a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta DemocraciaAbierta Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics Equality Ideas International politics russia & eurasia north america middle east latin america india/pakistan europe china asia & pacific Africa Vicenç Navarro Tue, 01 Dec 2015 11:47:51 +0000 Vicenç Navarro 97879 at https://www.opendemocracy.net World poverty: the misconceptions of the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/vicen-navarro/world-poverty-misconceptions-of-winner-of-nobel-prize-in-economics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>Poverty is not an individual problem of lack of resources that can be solved through education. The problem is the way in which resources are distributed. <A href="http://lalineadefuego.info/" target=_blank><STRONG><EM>Españo</em><EM>l</em></strong></a>. </p> </div> </div> </div> <P><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/lkjh.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'> Angus Deaton, winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences 2015 </span></span></span></p> <P>The bestowal of the so-called Nobel Prize in Economics (misnamed because it is not awarded by the Nobel Foundation, but by a Swedish bank) upon Scottish professor at Princeton University, Angus Deaton, for his work on global poverty, has been considered (correctly) to be an indicator of the concern that a large number of international organizations are currently expressing about growing poverty in the world, and their relief, on the basis of Deaton’s optimistic opinion, that not only can this be reversed, but also eliminated even within the current capitalist order of the existing economic system in most of the countries where poverty is concentrated.</p> <P>According to the new Nobel Prize in Economics winner, a transfer of funds - relatively moderate - from rich to poor countries, along with a number of changes in the latter, such as an increase in educational campaigns, would be enough to stop millions from being poor. Deaton actually considers increased schooling to be the greatest engine of progress over the centuries, and the major single cause for the reduction of poverty and the improvement of the welfare of the population. Increased longevity, which Deaton attributes to the growth of the educated population, is, according to him, the key factor allowing the poor to acquire human capital and thus escape poverty and move up the social ladder.</p> <P>This vision and understanding of poverty is widely accepted in international institutions (including the IMF and the World Bank, as well as a substantial number of NGOs, government institutions and conservative and liberal political parties, and also parties that belong to the social-liberal tradition, such as many European social democratic parties). Increased education spending is considered by them all a precondition for the elimination of poverty.</p> <P><STRONG>What is the problem with the definition of poverty?</strong></p> <P>This vision of poverty, however, has several problems. One of them comes from measuring poverty in terms of the resources available to each individual person. For a long time, the level of resources that was considered the threshold of poverty was a little over one dollar per day. It has now risen to $ 1.9 per day. It should be noted, by the way, that what is said to be one dollar per day is not actually one dollar per day. For most countries with a low level of wealth, one dollar per day is considered more than enough for a person to live on, without in fact being poor. However, when the World Bank says one dollar per day, this does not mean that the person in question actually possesses one US dollar, but that he or she has the equivalent amount - in the currency of the country where the poor person lives - that he or she needs to buy products which in the US can be purchased with one dollar. If a US dollar can buy you a loaf of bread in the US, the one dollar per day in India means the amount of rupees needed to buy a loaf of bread in India. This amount has been increasing, from $ 1.25 per day (the daily income of 1,200 million people, one third of which are children) to almost $ 2.</p> <P><STRONG>Is global poverty decreasing?</strong></p> <P>On the basis of this criterion, it is assumed that the number of poor is diminishing because each year there are fewer people in this category. But it is often ignored that this is basically due to high economic growth in India and China, which together account for slightly more than a third of the world population. It is often forgotten, however, that in other parts of the world, such as Africa, there are now more people living in extreme poverty than 30 years ago (not only in absolute numbers, but also proportionally).</p> <P>But the main problem with this concept of poverty is the way poverty is defined - i.e., as a mere lack of resources. According to this definition, the problem of poverty is the poor person’s lack of resources. It seems reasonable enough, but it harbors a huge mistake: it focuses solely on the resources available to that person, regardless of the existing resources in the community that he or she belongs to and which he or she benefits from.</p> <P>The subsistence value of one dollar per day is very different, for example, &nbsp;in a society where a public health service exists, from the value in a society where people have to pay to access healthcare. The context in which the person lives is especially important in order to know what resources are available to him or her, for public resources should be added to private ones (one dollar per day).</p> <P>Neither Angus Deaton nor the World Bank take into account the public resources which can determine that an individual with the same private resources may or may not in fact be poor, depending on the availability of other (public) resources in the society where he or she lives. Their definition of poverty gives excessive importance to private resources and focuses solely on the amount of resources that the individual can buy with the money he or she has. This privatizing and mercantile vision is a biased perspective that hinders the understanding of poverty.</p> <P><STRONG>Poverty is a relational concept</strong></p> <P>To this should be added another error which also stems from the focus on the individual without analyzing its relationship with other individuals in the same community. Two people having the same amount of monetary resources but living in two different countries can be classified as poor in one society but not in the other. Being defined as poor, or not, depends on the amount of money that the individual has in relation to other individuals in that community. In other words, poverty is a relational concept. Actually, if everyone in the world was poor, there would be no poverty in the world because, there not being other people with different levels of resources, the person would not feel, nor be, poor. Poverty, therefore, depends on the context where the person that has been defined as poor lives. Let us consider the data.</p> <P>A poor person living in a poor neighborhood of the Bronx, in New York, has more physical and monetary resources available to him or her (television, dollars, car, mobile, greater living space, public welfare-type transfers, etc.) than a middle-class person in Ghana. If the world were one single society, the poor person from the Bronx, New York, would belong to the global middle class, and the middle-class person from Ghana would belong to the category of the world's poor. And yet (and this is of great importance), if we use the same indicator as Deaton’s (life expectancy to define progress), we come up against a paradoxical situation where the poor person in global terms (the middle-class person from Ghana) lives 15 more years on average than the middle-class person (the poor person from the Bronx). It is indeed paradoxical that the person who has more resources available to him or her (the one from the Bronx) and who is less poor in global terms, has fewer years to live than the other person (the middle-class one from Ghana) who has fewer resources available to him or her. And this is where Deaton’s and most of the antipoverty establishment’s theories, which state that poverty is an individual problem of lack of resources that can be solved through education, fail miserably.</p> <P><STRONG>Poverty is not an absolute, but a relative concept</strong></p> <P>Poverty is not an absolute, but a relative concept. Whether you are poor or not, and whether you are defined as such or not, depends on where you are located within the social structure of any given country. You cannot consider the individual person out of his or her economic, political and social context where he or she lives. This leads us on to the root of the problem, which is not a lack of resources, but the way in which they are distributed. The distribution of resources nationally and globally is the fundamental issue that conventional wisdom on poverty, as conveyed by the World Bank and Deaton, does not address.</p> <P>A poor person from the Bronx is at the bottom of society, a profoundly unequal and highly polarized society where little collective support is to be found (the US welfare state is highly deficient, as shown by the fact that 48% of terminally ill patients feel anxiety at not knowing how they – or their families - will pay for their medical bills). Moreover, this poor person from the Bronx feels enormously frustrated, because the social and economic gap between him or herself and the average American citizen is huge – which means that he or she feels overwhelmed and has thus very little chances of getting out of the bottom of the well, which in turn generates a lot of frustration and pathologies that are responsible for his shorter life expectancy. The middle-class person from Ghana, however, is not below but above his or her society’s average, and therefore does not feel this kind of frustration and alienation from the rest of society for there is no difficult gap for him or her to bridge, which is something the poor person from the Bronx does experience.</p> <P>This is where the emphasis on transferring income to the poor in order to solve poverty is just not enough. Experts in social policy are fully aware that much of the anti-poverty measures which are based on the transfer of public funds for welfare purposes have a limited effect. All the evidence shows that such public transfers to the poor, even when necessary to alleviate their predicament, are ineffective in the sense that they do not solve poverty in any given country. Something similar happens with the emphasis on education as a means to escape poverty. These are necessary but insufficient measures. What is required to eliminate poverty is highly redistributive public policies aiming at reducing the social and economic, financial, political, communication and social gaps which are causing poverty. The evidence is overwhelming in this regard. The greater the inequality in any given country, the greater its poverty. What is required to eliminate poverty is the redistribution of resources aimed at reducing inequalities - which is precisely a taboo subject to international organizations.</p> <P>From what has been said so far, the conclusion should be that to transfer money from rich to poor countries does not help reduce poverty, unless these resources are devoted to redistributive measures, which is something that seldom occurs. In fact, if the rich countries wanted to help eliminate poverty in poor countries, they could easily do so by helping to redistribute the enormous concentration of wealth that exists in these countries. They do not do so because they are very often the biggest allies of the power structures that control and benefit from the concentration of wealth in these countries. </p> <P>The reader will also understand why the arguments put forward here do not have the same visibility that Deaton’s or the World Bank’s, for they emphasize redistribution, and thus threaten the richest groups in a country that has great influence on, if not control of, the major means of information and persuasion. It is as simple as that.</p> <P>&nbsp;</p> <HR /> <P>&nbsp;</p> <P>This article was published previously by <A href="http://lalineadefuego.info/" target="_blank"><EM>La línea de fuego</em></a>.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta Culture Democracy and government Economics Ideas International politics russia & eurasia north america latin america europe asia & pacific Africa Vicenç Navarro Tue, 01 Dec 2015 11:47:06 +0000 Vicenç Navarro 97877 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Erdoğan and Putin: unalike likeness https://www.opendemocracy.net/dimitar-bechev/erdo%C4%9F-and-putin-unalike-likeness <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The leaders of Turkey and Russia are often compared. But their differences are more instructive than their similarities.</p><p>(<em>This article was first published on 22 November 2014</em>)</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Strongmen are in high demand across Europe’s fringes these days. Hungary’s prime minister Victor Orbán hit a raw nerve when, addressing a crowd of admirers in neighbouring Romania in July 2014, he declared that the era of liberal democracy was over. Orbán, the <em>bête noire</em> of many a Europhile, vowed to lead the Hungarian nation with a firm grip and to protect its vital interests against foreign encroachments. Amongst the examples he cited as inspiring this resolve were Russia and Turkey.</p><p>Orbán was not the first, nor will he be the last, to put Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the same basket. Turkey’s combative prime minister (now president) raised cries of “Putinisation" from his opponents as early as September 2009, when he despatched the tax authorities to impose a $3.8 million fine on Doğan Holding, a powerful media group.&nbsp; </p><p>There were differences: the streetwise businessman turned media mogul Aydın Doğan was treated far less roughly than had been Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his Yukos company.&nbsp; Erdoğan's personal feud, on this occasion at least, sent no one to prison - and Doğan Holding is still around. </p><p>Yet the tax-violation case did echo the painfully familiar Russian maxim: “<em>druzyam - vsyo, vragam - zakon</em>” (“friends get everything, enemies get the law"). The selective application of the law showed who was the boss in Turkey. Soon the spectre of “Putinisation”&nbsp; would overshadow previous concerns that Erdoğan's Justice &amp; Development Party (AKP) was seeking the Islamisation of society and the state. Turkey, it was said, was turning not into the Islamic Republic of Iran but into a second Russia.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>By 2013, with Erdoğan’s security clampdown on the civic protests around Istanbul's Gezi Park - and his enthronement as a sultan-like president a year later - the parallel with the Kremlin's master was becoming even more salient. After all, Putin himself had reoccupied the presidency in 2012 in the wake of the protest rallies at Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square, having proved adept - again like Erdoğan - at exploiting the anger and frustration of a disenchanted urban middle class that had benefited from a decade of robust economic growth but was now feeling less secure. </p><p>Their responses to the protests were similar in style if different in detail. Putin spied a plot to export a "colour revolution", Erdoğan a conspiracy fomented by the global “interest-rate lobby” to thwart Turkey’s inexorable rise. In each case the leader's rhetorical and, latterly real, wars paid off. Putin annexed Crimea and detached parts of eastern Ukraine, in the process showing how foreign policy can be used to consolidate domestic support. Erdoğan had already bolstered his popularity via virulent attacks on Israel as well as the United States, and deployed the same fiery nationalist discourse over the conflict in Syria.&nbsp; </p><p>In both cases too, relations with the European Union have been poisoned amid Moscow and Ankara's frequent recriminations and complaints of unfair treatment. Rejection by Europe has brought the two supposed "rising powers" closer, an embrace helped by the good personal chemistry between Erdoğan and Putin (notwithstanding the indirect clash over Syria, where they back opposing sides). Turkey, a longstanding Nato member, has declined to join western sanctions against Russia over Ukraine; bilateral trade is booming (partly fuelled by the Turkish economy's need for gas); Turkey’s construction companies earn lucrative contracts from Sochi to Moscow; and millions of Russian tourists flock to Turkey's Mediterranean resorts.</p><p><strong>Power and its constraints</strong></p><p>It is to be expected, then, that some analysts see Erdoğan and Putin as two sides of the same coin. Natalie Nougayrède, writing in the <em>Guardian</em>, speaks of “the two angry men on Europe’s borders” who ruthlessly pursue power, exploit historical traumas and myths of victimhood, and mix nationalism and anti-liberal traditionalism to pose a fundamental challenge to European values. Others refer to an "axis of the excluded”. </p><p>There is certainly a grain of truth in these views. Both Turkey's illiberal system and Russia's autocratic regime snub the model projected by the west - and the European Union in particular; both leaders seek inspiration in past empires (Ottoman and Tsarist-Soviet) rather than Brussels’ EU-topia. They are a poignant reminder that liberal democracy with its insistence on the rule of law, pluralism and deliberation is not the only game in town. The alternative they represent - the omnipresent and venerated state, the strong-willed and charismatic leader, the direct appeal to the masses through the skilful use of media, the staunch belief in sovereignty, and the reluctance to delegate or share power (either domestically or in the context of international institutions) - is a radical contrast to the EU’s narrative.</p><p>Yet differences between the two strongmen and their political tactics may outweigh similarities. First, the mismatch between Erdoğan’s anti-western rhetoric and his far more restrained actions is notable. The regional crisis has underscored Turkey’s continued dependence on the west. Erdoğan's anger with the US - over its aid to the Syrian Kurds fighting Islamic State<em> jihadis</em> in Kobane, and its refusal to intervene forcefully against Bashar al-Assad in Damascus - exposes Turkey's continued military dependency: it needs Nato’s Patriot missiles to be deployed along its porous border with Syria, and even more US "boots on the ground" to help address Turkey's vulnerability. </p><p>By contrast, Putin’s grudge is that the the US and EU are meddling in what he sees as Russia's privileged sphere of influence; thus the incursion into Ukraine to expunge western influence away from the post-Soviet space and control Kyiv’s choices by way of creating a new "frozen conflict". </p><p>Second, there are divergences in domestic politics. In Putin’s authoritarian system, elections are a mere sideshow and the <em>Duma</em> rubber-stamps the Kremlin's decisions; under Erdoğan and the AKP, electoral legitimacy matters, and political authority is a function of it. Turkey's polarised society generates a political system, which, for all its flaws, is more competitive than Russia's. It shares and benefits from a longer tradition of (albeit imperfect) democracy. While Putin’s regime is about creating and sustaining fake opposition parties and staging elections, in Turkey ballots do count. Erdoğan’s choice to run for the presidency was conditioned by the AKP's strong showing in the municipal polls of 31 March.&nbsp; </p><p>Looking ahead, the legislative elections of 2015 will be critical for the government as they will decide whether AKP will win enough seats to adopt a new constitutional draft and bring in a presidential system. Again, this confirms the importance of elections and institutions do matter in Turkey compared to Russia. After all, Erdoğan is an electoral politician who worked his way up from the streets of Istanbul to the peak of power; Putin is a security operative whose roots lie in the state's repressive apparatus.</p><p><strong>The roots of difference</strong></p><p>If the outcome in Turkey were highly personalised rule where one individual grabs all levers of power and suppresses dissent, such distinctions might seem irelevant. Here it is important to note that key parts of the AKP pro-democracy narrative of the early 2000s - when the party acted as a champion of Europeanisation, human and minority rights - remain in place. The Kurdish peace (or solution) process has been dealth a heavy blow by Ankara’s alignment with IS and unwillingness to come to the rescue of the Syrian Kurds, yet it survives. Erdoğan, together with the jailed head of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, remains at the forefront of efforts to heal a scar that has torn Turkey’s polity for decades. Whether Turkey’s president delivers or not on the promise to settle the conflict will determine the final judgment on his reign. </p><p>Furthermore, Erdoğan and Putin relate in dissimilar ways to tradition and religious identity.&nbsp; The war in Ukraine has exposed the heterogeneous and tenuous nature of the Kremlin’s ideological message, which combines references to Orthodoxy with glorification of the Soviet past. Putin's bid to undermine western ideological hegemony has also seen him join forces with both Europe's far left and the extreme right; in ways reminiscent of Slobodan Milošević’s Serbia, communist-era apparatchiks and security-service types (<em>siloviki</em>) have co-opted culture and faith - and consulted PR experts - to concoct a postmodern pastiche whose sole purpose is legitimising autocracy. </p><p>Again by contrast, the AKP and Erdoğan draw on a longer organic tradition of political Islam whose roots lie in the 1960s (if not earlier). Its central preoccupation is the question of whether and how religious values and modernity can be reconciled. Erdoğan's image as an “authentic“ conservative - as opposed to self-seeking politician using tradition as a mere tool - might be questioned; but it is central to the identity of the AKP’s cohesive party base and its dense grassroots networks. And it's worth recalling that Erdoğan was educated at a religious seminary (<em>imam hatip</em>)&nbsp; - a far cry from the Soviet schools attended by Putin, following by KGB training. </p><p><strong>Empire vs nation-state</strong></p><p>The best way to see this relationship might be in terms of two dissimilar post-imperial situations. Putin is a product of the Soviet empire as well of its collapse in the 1980s-90s. His objective is to restore its power and prestige. Russia, unlike Turkey, never underwent a process of nation-state homogenisation; empire is a vivid reality even in its present confines, rather than a historical artefact and resource of memory (Russia is home to a large Muslim population, Turkey has very few non-Muslims left). </p><p>Erdoğan springs from a distinctively nation-state context, one where key parts of the Ottoman legacy were suppressed. He chose to reinvent Turkey’s identity, pushing (<em>Sunni</em>) Islam and the Ottomans to the forefront to refight a struggle against Kemalists. Rather than redrawing borders, his quasi-imperial mission abroad envisages establishing Turkey as a political and economic model for the Middle East and north Africa.</p><p>But in fairness, the much vaunted bonds between Turkey and its neighbours (cultural, linguistic, migratory) are nowhere near those that connect Russia to its "near abroad". Millions across the ex-Soviet Union, regardless of their ethnicity, have direct access to Putin’s message through the medium of Russian as a <em>lingua franca</em>. Putin’s neighbourhood policy is alive and kicking: the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) is officially launched on 1 January 2015; Erdoğan’s, after so much effort to harness Ottoman nostalgia, crashed with Syria's war, the military coup in Egypt, and Iraq’s implosion. </p><p>That does not give Putin has an easier ride than Erdoğan. The Kremlin oscillates between inclusive schemes of Eurasian unification where economic integration renews political bonds across the Soviet Union and ethnocentric phantasms of a Russkii Mir (Russian world). Its imperial ambitons are constrained by a xenophobic public opinion in Russia, where a minority of thugs is ever ready to lash out at immigrants from central Asia and the Caucasus. The dilution of borders in the EEU might prove a hard sell, which has not been the case in Turkey’s dealings with its neighbours. Tensions between parochial and exclusionary nationalism and imperial expansionism are a formidable challenge to Putin’s regime.</p><p>Comparing Putin and Erdoğan is an interesting exercise. Juxtaposing them is even more fruitful. For all the commonalities, it is the differences between the two leaders that provide most insight into today’s Turkey and Russia.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.lse.ac.uk/europeaninstitute/home.aspx">European Institute, LSE</a></p><p>South East European Studies at Oxford (<a href="http://www.sant.ox.ac.uk/seesox/">SEESOX</a>)</p><p><a href="http://www.ecfr.eu/">European Council on Foreign Relations</a></p><p><a href="http://www.isn.ethz.ch/Digital-Library/Publications/Detail/?ots591=0c54e3b3-1e9c-be1e-2c24-a6a8c7060233&amp;lng=en&amp;id=182086"><em>Turkey's Illiberal Turn</em></a> (ECFR, 201) </p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item even"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Russia Turkey Democracy and government International politics democracy & power russia & eurasia Dimitar Bechev Sat, 28 Nov 2015 07:40:07 +0000 Dimitar Bechev 88071 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Mientras el mundo anda mirando, hay 59,5 millones de desplazados internos en la tierra https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/jeremy-fox/mientras-el-mundo-anda-mirando-hay-595-millones-de-desplazados-internos <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Unos 6 millones de colombianos hacen que el segundo país del mundo con más desplazados internos (DIs) por motivos de violencia no esté en Oriente Medio, sino en América Latina. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/jeremy-fox/enquanto-o-mundo-assiste-h-595-milh-es-de-deslocados-internos-na-terra" target="_blank">Português</a></em></strong>. <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/jeremy-fox/while-world-watches"><em>English. <br /></em></a></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/vcv.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Asentamiento de desplazados internos en Bogotá, Colombia, en 2006. Flickr / UNHCR. Some rights reserved</span></span></span></p><p>Las noticias que día tras día se suceden sobre un sinnúmero de refugiados atravesando Europa en busca de auxilio y amparo, y sobre los millones que se amontonan a las puertas de Europa en Turquía, Jordania y Líbano, no necesitan mayor explicación. Sólo Siria genera casi 4 millones de refugiados, e Irak y Somalia<a href="https://www.refintl.org/get-involved/helpful-facts-%2526-figures"> otros 3 millones</a>. A estos se añaden cientos de miles que provienen de Afganistán, Libia, Eritrea, Nigeria. Son cifras alarmantes, pero que han dejado de sorprendernos porque los medios de comunicación se han encargado de familiarizarnos con ellas.</p> <p>Lo que ya está menos documentado y es menos conocido – ignorado, quizás, porque sus repercusiones apenas alcanzan el Primer Mundo – es que el número de personas que han perdido o han tenido que huir de sus hogares es mucho mayor. ACNUR (el<strong> </strong><em>Alto Comisionado de Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados</em>) estima que el número de personas desplazadas actualmente en el mundo es de <a href="http://www.unhcr.org.uk/about-us/key-facts-and-figures.html">59.5 millones</a>, de los que ‘sólo’ 19.3 millones constan como refugiados o solicitantes de asilo.<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/C:/Users/user/Downloads/Displaced%20(1).docx#One">[i]</a> En lenguaje oficial, los desplazados que no son refugiados se conocen como DIs (Desplazados Internos).</p> <p><strong>Refugiados y DIs</strong></p> <p>Un refugiado es alguien que ha huido de su país de origen por temor fundado a ser perseguido por razón de raza, religión, nacionalidad, pertenencia o afiliación a determinado grupo social u opinión política y que no puede obtener protección en dicho país.<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/C:/Users/user/Downloads/Displaced%20(1).docx#Two">[ii]</a>&nbsp;Esta definición, redactada tras la Segunda Guerra Mundial y adoptada formalmente en 1951 con la aprobación de la <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49da0e466.html">Convención de Naciones Unidas sobre el Estatuto de los Refugiados</a>, era fruto de la historia bélica vivida y restringía el término a esta experiencia reciente. </p> <p>Probablemente a los redactores de la Convención de Ginebra no se les ocurrió que el término podía aplicarse también a aquellas personas que han sido expulsadas de sus hogares pero carecen de recursos para emprender la huida, o que se encuentran con que no hay países que quieran aceptarles, o que desconocen si estos países existen. Si uno está huyendo para salvar la vida en Darfur, independientemente de la distancia que haya recorrido o del motivo de la huida, sólo es un refugiado cuando traspasa una frontera internacional; mientras, es meramente un DI.</p> <p>Casi el 80 por ciento de los 13.9 millones de personas desplazadas en el año 2014 a consecuencia de un conflicto o persecución eran y continúan siendo DIs. La preocupación son los refugiados, que merecen la protección de la comunidad internacional – al menos en teoría. Los DIs, aunque reconocidos y apoyados por ACNUR, ocupan un lugar mucho menor en la conciencia mundial. Y, como veremos, incluso la perspectiva de ACNUR adolece de graves limitaciones.</p> <p>Los dos principales impulsores de desplazamientos internos son la violencia y persecución, y los desastres naturales.</p> <p><strong>DIs – por violencia y persecución</strong></p> <p>No es ninguna sorpresa que Siria cuente actualmente con el mayor número de DIs por motivos de violencia: su número estimado es de entre <a href="http://syrianrefugees.eu/">6.5 millones</a> y <a href="https://www.refintl.org/get-involved/helpful-facts-%2526-figures">7.6 millones</a> — la horquilla se debe a la dificultad de recopilar datos precisos en las zonas en conflicto y a la dinámica incesante característica de los movimientos humanos. Tampoco ningún consumidor de medios de comunicación occidentales se sorprenderá al saber que se calcula que los DIs en Irak son más de 3.5 millones, o que hay unos 1.5 millones de sudaneses del sur y un millón de afganos desplazados en sus propios países. </p> <p>Lo que quizás se conozca menos es que el segundo país del mundo con más desplazados por motivos de violencia no está en Oriente Medio ni en el norte de África, sino en América Latina. Se estima que en Colombia hay unos <a href="http://www.internal-displacement.org/americas/colombia/">6 millones</a> de DIs - víctimas de la violencia interna perpetrada tanto por la guerrilla como por las fuerzas gubernamentales y los paramilitares. Se sabe poco de ellos, quizás porque Colombia no ha sido nunca un campo de batalla ideológico entre Este y Oeste, o entre religiones competidoras, e interesa más a narcotraficantes y a comerciantes de café que a ejecutivos de las corporaciones petroleras.</p> <p><strong>DIs – por desastres naturales</strong></p> <p>Según el <a href="http://www.internal-displacement.org/"><em>Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre</em></a> (Centro de Seguimiento de los Desplazamientos Internos, con sede en Ginebra), entre 2008 y mediados de 2015, el número de personas desplazadas a causa de desastres naturales fue de poco menos de 185 millones. No, no es ningún error de imprenta. Son personas que se han visto obligadas a dejar sus hogares y su modo de vida por terremotos, avalanchas de barro, inundaciones, incendios y sequías. </p> <p>En 2014, la cifra de desplazados por desastres naturales fue relativamente modesta, 19.3 millones (por debajo del promedio anual), y los países más afectados fueron Filipinas, con 5.8 millones, y China e India con unos 3.5 millones cada uno. Las grandes catástrofes suelen salir en titulares en todo el mundo, pero la mayoría se olvidan rápidamente. </p> <p>¿Cuántos de nosotros sabemos que cerca de un millón de chilenos e indonesios, 250.000 malasios, 200.000 bolivianos, 150.000 brasileños y ciudadanos de Sri Lanka, 130.000 sudaneses y 80.000 paraguayos se vieron desplazados el año pasado?</p> <p>Pero ¿son los desastres naturales unos sucesos meramente aleatorios sin relación alguna con lo que los humanos le hacemos a la Tierra? <a href="https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/4172/WPS4980.pdf">Según el Banco Mundial</a>, que parece haber aceptado el consenso científico sobre la cuestión, en absoluto. Por añadidura, el número de sucesos graves muestra una clara <a href="http://www.preventionweb.net/files/44281_19802014paketworldusde4zu3.pdf">tendencia al alza</a> – especialmente la frecuencia de grandes tormentas e inundaciones. </p> <p>Si esta tendencia continúa - y a pesar de los esfuerzos de los científicos medioambientales y activistas destacados como <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jul/16/al-gore-obama-climate-change-arctic-drilling">Al Gore</a> y <a href="http://www.naomiklein.org/main">Naomi Klein</a>, existen pocos motivos para pensar que no lo hará -, entonces lo que podemos esperar son más desastres naturales y muchas más personas desposeídas y sin hogar.</p> <p><strong>DIs – por desarrollo económico</strong></p> <p>Los proyectos de desarrollo económico son la tercera y probablemente la principal causa de desplazamiento humano y miseria en el planeta, en gran parte ignorada tanto por los medios de comunicación como por los organismos internacionales, incluido ACNUR. Michael Cernea, ex asesor principal del Banco Mundial, es probablemente quien más se ha esforzado por dar la voz de alarma. </p> <p><a href="http://repository.forcedmigration.org/show_metadata.jsp?pid=fmo:1320">En una conferencia en la Universidad de Oxford </a>&nbsp;en 1995, Cernea afirmó que “…en el mundo, unos diez millones de personas entran anualmente en el ciclo de desplazamiento forzoso y reubicación en sólo dos “sectores” – a saber, el de construcción de presas y el sector urbano/transporte… Los desplazamientos provocados por el desarrollo… han resultado ser un proceso mucho mayor que todos los flujos mundiales de refugiados en su conjunto.”</p> <p>Esta cifra de 10 millones es parcial, señaló Cernea, ya que no incluye áreas y sectores como bosques, parques y reservas naturales, minería y centrales térmicas y muchos otros. Su catálogo de los estragos más comunes del desplazamiento por motivos de desarrollo incluye la carencia de tierras, el desempleo, la falta de vivienda, la marginación, la inseguridad alimentaria, el aumento de la morbilidad y la mortalidad, y la desintegración social; y, como él mismo dejaba claro en un informe del <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/up-front/posts/2014/11/24-safeguards-displacement-ferris">Brookings Institute </a>publicado en 2014, el proceso continúa sin que se le ponga coto.</p> <p>A las víctimas de los grandes proyectos de desarrollo económico rara vez se les compensa o se reubican adecuadamente. Considerando la degradación ambiental y el sufrimiento humano asociados a proyectos como <a href="http://www.ienearth.org/what-we-do/tar-sands/">la explotación de arenas bituminosas</a> en Alberta, Canadá, o la explotación minera de <a href="http://www.tlaxcala-int.org/article.asp?reference=9812">Cerrejón</a> en el norte de Colombia, se hace difícil imaginar qué tipo de compensación podría considerarse realmente restitutiva. </p> <p>En <a href="http://www.penguinbooksindia.com/en/content/everybody-loves-good-drought-0%253Frate=_mh56TtWuTX6JL6Lofzz0vSntj8LgQMRVPBMOdyta1Y.html"><em>Everybody loves a good drought</em></a> (A todo el mundo le gusta una buena sequía), el magistral relato de la vida de los pobres en la India escrito por el periodista Palagummi Sainath, el autor habla de DIs que llevan 45 años esperando ser compensados. Incluso el Banco Mundial se muestra curiosamente lánguido a la hora de proteger los intereses de las personas marginadas por proyectos financiados por el Banco, a pesar de su compromiso formal de hacerlo.</p> <p>Entre los proyectos de desarrollo más perjudiciales – esto es, perjudiciales para las personas directamente afectadas – se encuentran las presas a gran escala. Arundhati Roy, en <a href="http://www.narmada.org/gcg/gcg.html"><em>The Greater Common Good</em></a><em> </em>(El mayor bien común), un ensayo escrito con rabia e indignación, ofrece un panorama desgarrador de cómo la construcción de grandes presas ha destrozado la vida de campesinos y aldeanos en la India – especialmente las poblaciones <a href="http://www.ibtimes.com/tribals-india-aboriginal-peoples-without-land-842895">tribales</a> (aborígenes sin tierra). Centenares de pueblos se han perdido bajo las aguas de los pantanos, tierras agrícolas y valiosas zonas forestales se hallan submergidas y los aldeanos han caído en la pobreza y la desesperación. </p> <p>Roy hace referencia en su ensayo a un estudio sobre 54 grandes presas realizado por el Instituto de Administración Pública de la India (IIPA) en el que se estima que el promedio de personas desplazadas por cada presa es de cerca de 45.000. La Comisión Central del Agua de la India mantiene un <a href="http://www.cwc.nic.in/main/downloads/New%2520NRLD.pdf">registro nacional de grandes presas</a>, según el cual el país cuenta actualmente con 4.858 presas terminadas y otras 313 en construcción, lo que arroja un total de 5.171. Tomando una cifra redonda, 5.000 presas, y multiplicándola por una cifra prudente de 20.000 desplazados por presa (en lugar de la estimación mucho mayor del IIPA), llegamos a un resultado de 100 millones de personas desarraigadas por la construcción de presas, sólo en la India.</p> <p>“Las grandes presas,” escribe Roy, “son para el desarrollo de un país lo que las bombas nucleares para su arsenal militar. Ambas son armas de destrucción masiva… símbolos que marcan un punto en el tiempo en el que la inteligencia humana ha sobrepasado su instinto de supervivencia… indicaciones malignas de una civilización revolviéndose contra ella misma.”</p> <p>Pero las presas no son, ni de lejos, las únicas iniciativas de desarrollo que implican desalojos forzosos. La minería, la ganadería, la agroindústria, las plantas papeleras, la construcción de autovías y hasta los campos de tiro militares figuran entre las actividades que requieren – o exigen – sacrificios humanos. </p> <p>Como argumenta el líder Yanomami y defensor de la Amazonía David Kopenawa, “…todas las mercancías que tanto valoran los blancos no tendrán nunca tanto valor como todos los árboles y las frutas y los animales del bosque... Ninguna cantidad de dinero podrá jamás compensar la quema del bosque, la devastación de la tierra y la contaminación de los ríos.”<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/C:/Users/user/Downloads/Displaced%20(1).docx#Three">[iii]</a>&nbsp; </p> <p>Nos hallamos en un universo incontrolado en el que los ricos, los poderosos y el uso agresivo de las armas más adecuadas a cada circunstancia – ya sean bombas y tanques, o presas, minas e industrias contaminantes – para lograr sus objetivos destruyen la vida de los pobres y vulnerables. Deploramos con razón la trágica situación de los refugiados en nuestras puertas; pero ante los que viven y mueren miserablemente en otros lugares, estamos ciegos o somos indiferentes. </p> <p>Esforzándonos por imponer a los demás nuestra religión, nuestra política, nuestra forma de vida consumista, incluso nuestras fantasías de desarrollo, terminamos destrozándoles a ellos y al medio ambiente del que son custodios. Los imperativos militares y el desarrollo económico son grandes negocios; y no se permite que nada, al parecer, se interponga en su camino.</p> <hr size="0" /> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/C:/Users/user/Downloads/Displaced%20(1).docx#_ednref1">[i]</a> Un solicitante de asilo es alguien que ha presentado su solicitud pero al que todavía no se le ha concedido la condición de refugiado.</p> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/C:/Users/user/Downloads/Displaced%20(1).docx#_ednref2">[ii]</a> La definición formal es algo más elaborada.</p> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/C:/Users/user/Downloads/Displaced%20(1).docx#_ednref3">[iii]</a> David Kopenawa con Bruce Albert, <a href="https://jsa.revues.org/11786?lang=en"><em>La chute du Ciel</em></a> (La caída del cielo), París 2010.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta DemocraciaAbierta Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Ideas International politics democracy & power conflicts russia & eurasia middle east latin america europe asia & pacific Africa Jeremy Fox Thu, 22 Oct 2015 10:37:34 +0000 Jeremy Fox 97040 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Eastern Ukraine: the humanity behind the headlines https://www.opendemocracy.net/open-security/nils-mui%C5%BEnieks/eastern-ukraine-humanity-behind-headlines <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The government in Kyiv, aid organisations and the international community must work together to address the humanitarian crisis created by the fighting in the east.</p> </div> </div> </div> <iframe src="//player.vimeo.com/video/114761778" width="460" height="259" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href="http://vimeo.com/114761778">Commissioner for human rights hears plight of IDPs in Ukraine</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/user13843775">open Security</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">News reports from the conflict in eastern Ukraine are full of grim increases in the statistics of the dead, injured, and displaced, of ceasefires which quickly break down and movements of heavy weaponry. The headlines make one aware that Ukraine is at war but they do not always show the effects on ordinary people.</span></p> <p>I recently visited the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine. I went to Krasnoarmiysk, a town of 70,000 people in a mining region, 30km from the front line. I also went to the smaller industrial town of Kurakhove (population 20,000), 15km west of rebel-held Donetsk, the regional capital. Each town was without running water for five months this year, including the summer, and the clatter of shelling nearby still keeps people from sleeping. Krasnoarmiysk itself experienced serious unrest in the spring and two men were shot dead during incidents near City Hall on 11 May. </p> <p>Those I met, who included displaced persons—many of them pensioners—and the local officials and others working to help them, told me that there was much weariness from months of insecurity and fighting, and that some people had become too indifferent to their fate to bother going to the shelters. Most longed for peace.</p> <p>I also went to Dnipropetrovsk, a large city in a region which has received some 50,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). The country’s capital, Kyiv, and its surrounding region are hosting some 60,000 more. There are now at least half a million IDPs in Ukraine and the figure keeps growing. </p> <h2>Centres and camps</h2><p>While some have moved in with friends or family, thousands are living in collective centres hastily adapted from company hostels and schools or rapidly winterised summer camps. Some have already found work, but most survive on the goodwill of volunteers and donations from Ukraine’s civil society. </p> <p>I praise the relentless efforts of those providing much-needed assistance to these vulnerable groups but their efforts alone will not be enough to ensure durable solutions for the increasing number of displaced persons arriving from the conflict-affected regions. Many are waiting for the Ukrainian government to begin paying promised allowances and put forward a plan for their long-term integration.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right" style="line-height: 1.5;">Little attention has been paid to the lives of those traumatised, uprooted and abandoned.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span>We still have only a fragmentary picture of life in rebel-held areas. The primary sources of information are individuals fleeing from the east and the reports of a few international organisations and humanitarian groups which have intermittent access on the ground. In the context of an information war, media reports are often contradictory. </p> <p>From the people I met, I heard stories of extreme hardship—even hunger—among vulnerable groups in those regions. They include the elderly and persons with disabilities, as well as those living in prisons, psychiatric hospitals and care homes—some of which have no running water, heat or electricity and very few remaining (and unpaid) staff. Imagine living in an unheated building when temperatures are 18 degrees below zero Centigrade, which was the case when I was there. </p> <p>This deprivation explains the appalling conditions the monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and Reuters journalists recently encountered in the psychiatric hospital in Slovyanoserbsk (Luhansk region), where 49 patients have died since August. Only six of the 180 staff remained in the hospital, and they had received no salary nor their patients any pensions for six months. Apparently, dozens of similar cases can be found in institutions in the conflict-affected areas. </p> <h2>Not forgotten</h2><p>These are the people behind the headlines and they must not be forgotten. The conflict in eastern Ukraine and its geopolitical dimension echoing the cold war have been the main focus of chancelleries, businesspeople and media outlets in Europe. Little attention has been paid to the lives of those traumatised, uprooted and abandoned. It is time to turn to them and help them live in a dignified manner.</p> <p>What can be done? As the Ukrainian government has no access to the rebel-held territories, it should work with the international organisations and humanitarian groups which do have such access to reach the most vulnerable. It should also adopt a flexible approach in paying pensions to persons arriving from the rebel-held areas. </p> <p>The international community, including all those who are involved in providing aid to the affected regions, should do its utmost to ensure that aid reaches those who are in need, and generously assist Ukraine in meeting the humanitarian and integration needs of its IDPs.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexandr-litoy/putin%E2%80%99s-international-brigades">Putin’s International Brigades </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/david-marples/poroshenko%27s-choices">Poroshenko&#039;s choices</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ukraine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Ukraine Conflict International politics rule of law people flow: migration in europe human rights european security ukraine russia & eurasia Nils Muižnieks Diplomacy International Law Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:15:22 +0000 Nils Muižnieks 88988 at https://www.opendemocracy.net New security laws could make Turkey into a police state https://www.opendemocracy.net/open-security/john-lubbock-deniz-agah/new-security-laws-could-make-turkey-into-police-state <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The latest crackdown on journalists in Turkey is another twist in the&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">spiral</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;into&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">authoritarianism of a state bereft of an effective political opposition</span>—<span style="line-height: 1.5;">with 'Putinisation' an increasingly realistic description.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/helmets.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/helmets.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="458" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>A regime shielded from criticism. All photos by the authors.</span></p><p><span>A raft of changes to judicial and police powers is threatening to turn Turkey into an authoritarian police state, according to opponents of the ruling AKP party.</span></p> <p>The changes include salary increases and the creation of new judges. The new laws also hand police unprecedented powers to search and investigate anyone whom they have ‘reasonable suspicion’ to believe may have committed a crime. It now seems these new laws are being used to target critics of the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, even before they have technically come into force.</p> <p>The Turkish Bar Association said it was never consulted on the laws, which will come into effect in January. Although the opposition CHP had indicated it would <a href="http://www.dailysabah.com/politics/2014/11/25/chp-to-take-judicial-bill-and-security-reform-package-to-constitutional-court">oppose</a> the bill, the package passed the parliament by 211 votes to 17. The CHP’s representatives declined to comment on where they were for the vote.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/cops.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/cops.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="458" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Turkish commentators have long <a href="http://www.todayszaman.com/national_weak-political-opposition-impedes-further-political-development-in-turkey_301548.html">criticised</a> the CHP for its lack of visible opposition to Erdoğan’s policies. It may be that CHP lawmakers simply did not believe they could muster enough votes to seriously challenge the plans, and so did not bother to show up. The CHP is at a low point, with some disgruntled members <a href="http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/former-chp-dissident-tarhan-forms-a-new-party.aspx?pageID=238&amp;nID=74339&amp;NewsCatID=338">breaking off</a> to found a new Turkish nationalist party. The youth wing has been a bit more vocal, <a href="http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/27692783.asp">protesting</a> against the law and being tear-gassed by the police the day after the vote, 2 December.</p> <p>These events were largely overshadowed in Turkish media by the announcement on the same day of the latest round of exemptions from <a href="http://www.todayszaman.com/newsDetail.action;jsessionid=iRmKQZHjTZ-RoHoC5bPhsEjG?newsId=365914&amp;columnistId=0">military service</a>. All Turkish men are required to complete five to 12 months service but the government periodically exempts those who have repeatedly deferred it, on payment of a fee of around $8,000. </p> <p>Even before the law was passed, a journalist who investigated a corruption scandal involving President Erdoğan and members of his family was <a href="http://www.birgun.net/news/view/makul-suphede-ilk-gozalti-fuatavniye-geldi-savci-serbest-birakti/7348">questioned</a> under ‘reasonable suspicion’ of involvement in anti-government activities.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/leafleting.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/leafleting.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>On 3 December, members of the leftist academic group United June Movement (BHH) were <a href="http://www.radikal.com.tr/turkiye/ilk_makul_suphe_uygulamasi_denizliden_geldi-1244910">arrested</a> for handing out leaflets about a meeting they had organised. Reports on Twitter by other anti-government groups like the Social Democratic Party indicate their members are also being harassed by police under the new laws.&nbsp;<span>Neslihan Karataş, a member of BHH, described the purpose of the group and the obstruction it received from the government:</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><span>Our goal is to hold Turkey’s left together and allow them to work together against AKP’s reactionary, fascistic, capitalist, imperialist agenda. [AKP] don’t want these kind[s] of movements to be visible and powerful. BHH is the movement that provided [for] all of Turkey’s socialist leftist movement and groups to come together and fight together. So, this is for sure becoming a threat to the [AKP]. This actually strengthens us. As [Erdoğan’s] fascistic practices become more visible to the public, we become stronger. We will not be afraid. We will shake off the dark, reactionary power they impose on us.</span></p></blockquote> <h2>Authoritarian streak</h2> <p>Critics see the latest developments as part of a rising authoritarian streak in the government. Erdoğan was in power for 12 years as prime minister and recently won the first democratic vote for president. As the London <em>Independent</em> <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/editorials/the-new-sultan-erdogans-triumph-makes-drift-towards-authoritarianism-more-likely-9660483.html">pointed</a> out, this puts him in a position to remove judicial opposition to his reforms by nominating judges. The new legal changes will <a href="http://sozcu.com.tr/2014/gundem/yargi-paketi-yasalasti-665558/">expand</a> the Supreme Court by eight members to 46 and create hundreds of other new judicial positions throughout the country.</p> <p>Erdoğan has for some time considered himself a strong ruler in a more old-fashioned mould. In 2012 he made a <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIwQLjFW9aA">speech</a> about educational reforms, encouraging his supporters to mobilise against secular opposition, asking: “Am I the sultan? I am the sultan.” His supporters often refer to him as a kind of <a href="http://youtu.be/Ll2RiAVLnVg?t=12m34s">father figure</a> who has made the nation more prosperous and powerful.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/boy.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/boy.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="461" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>The Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş openly criticised the new laws, <a href="http://www.radikal.com.tr/politika/selahattin_demirtas_guvenlik_paketini_sokakta_engelleriz-1247642">saying</a>: “With meetings and protests we will stop this law. This law will backfire, people will not be afraid and go out to the streets … We will defy the parliament and unleash apocalypse in the streets.” The AKP prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu <a href="http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/hdp-co-chair-demirtas-responsible-for-any-bloodshed-turkish-pm.aspx?pageID=238&amp;nID=75421&amp;NewsCatID=338">called</a> his remarks “irresponsible”. </p> <p>When Demirtaş called for protests over Turkey’s failure to support Kurdish fighters in Kobane, violent clashes between Kurds and Turkish police resulted in 30 deaths. Davutoğlu added: “I’m warning Demirtaş. If he is saying they will turn the streets into lakes of blood, then he is responsible for each drop of blood to be shed.”</p> <h2><strong>Vague</strong></h2> <p>Other <a href="http://listelist.com/yeni-guvenlik-paketi/">aspects</a> of the new laws are vague and carry the risk of criminalising judges or prosecutors who bring cases against government officials, part of proposals to increase penalties for those in public positions who threaten the “material wealth” of another person.</p> <p>Another change allows the government access to notary records. A change to the Notary Law contains the sentence: “All information and documents connected to the procedures undertaken by notaries will be recorded and kept on the Turkish Notaries Union information system. These documents and information may be shared with persons and institutions entitled by statute ..." </p> <p>Erdoğan has managed to fuse capitalism and religion in a successful political combination and is remoulding Turkey’s secular institutions to a more religious image. Education reforms which increase the number of religious schools have <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/02/us-turkey-education-idUSKCN0JG0CK20141202">upset</a> less religious Turks.</p> <p>The cultural icon Orhan Pamuk, who won a Nobel prize in 2006 for his novels about modern Turkish society, has <a href="http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/nobel-laureate-writer-orhan-pamuk-slams-climate-of-fear-in-turkey.aspx?pageID=238&amp;nID=75289&amp;NewsCatID=386">said</a> that many are afraid to speak out against the state. “Freedom of expression has fallen to a very low level”, he said. Pamuk was one of a number of well-known <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/27/letters-turkey-freedom-expression">writers</a> to sign an open letter in March calling on Turkey to respect freedom of expression.</p> <p>On 11 December, the anonymous whistleblower ‘Fuat Avni’ began to circulate rumours on Twitter that police would begin a <a href="http://www.todayszaman.com/national_fuat-avni-some-150-hizmet-affiliated-journalists-to-be-detained_366687.html/">general crackdown </a>on opposition journalists, with editors of opposition newspapers <em>Today’s Zaman</em>, <em>Bugun</em> and <em>Taraf</em> among hundreds of potential targets for arrest. The focus was said to be on affiliates of the US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, in revenge for leaks during the 2013 corruption scandal which implicated Erdoğan and members of his family. </p> <p>People gathered outside the office of <em>Today’s Zaman</em> in solidarity and, by the evening of 12 December, ‘Fuat Avni’ was reporting that the government and police chiefs were delaying the arrests or formulating a new plan. He then reported that the government would pursue prosecutions against the journalists, with their <a href="http://www.todayszaman.com/national_whistleblower-fuat-avni-exposes-govt-plan-to-control-high-judiciary_366904.html">newly created judges</a> and prosecutors, and would begin arrests on 14 December. A scaled-back operation took place, targeting the Gülen-affiliated Zaman newspapers with dozens of <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/12/14/turkey-arrests-journalists-in-crackdown.html">arrests of journalists</a> in different cities.</p> <h2><strong>The Putin parallel</strong></h2> <p>Turkey shares with Russia not only deepening economic interests but also the <a href="http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/russia-and-turkey-lead-on-internet-censorship-growth-survey-shows-/512652.html">biggest growth</a> in internet censorship. Erdoğan <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/turkeys-erdogan-says-he-increasingly-against-internet-every-day-275014">said</a> at Ankara’s International Press Institute in October that he was “increasingly against the internet every day”. </p> <p>The deterioration of relations between Russia and Turkey and the West and their similar style of leadership has made them ‘natural allies’, <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2014/12/turkey-russia-putin-erdogan-meeting.html">according</a> to the pro-AKP <em>Daily Sabah</em> newspaper. Now Putin has strengthened this tie while hitting back at Western sanctions by dropping a planned <a href="http://www.globalresearch.ca/talking-turkey-and-gas-pipelines-putins-groundbreaking-deal-with-turkish-president-erdogan/5418420">gas pipeline</a> to Europe—in favour of one to Turkey.</p> <p>A Eurasian economic partnership of authoritarian strongmen seems to be forming in opposition to Western neoliberal expansionism. While another Turkish writer recently <a href="http://www.dailysabah.com/politics/2014/12/03/orwell-defoe-would-have-strongly-applauded-erdogan-renowned-turkish-writer">suggested</a> that George Orwell would “applaud” Erdoğan’s policies, the prospect of geopolitical power blocs forming in a new cold war could rather be another of Orwell’s prophetic visions becoming reality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/john-lubbock/turkey%27s-new-caliph-understanding-erdo%C4%9F%27s-hegemony">Turkey&#039;s new Caliph: understanding Erdoğan&#039;s hegemony</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ergun-%C3%B6zbudun/2014-presidential-elections-in-turkey-postelection-analysis">The 2014 presidential elections in Turkey: a post-election analysis</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Turkey Democracy and government the future of turkey rule of law human rights europe & islam russia & eurasia wfd marginalisation dissent Deniz Agah John Lubbock Tue, 16 Dec 2014 21:03:43 +0000 John Lubbock and Deniz Agah 88948 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The new cold war Russia (again) won't win https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/stefan-wolff-tatyana-malyarenko/new-cold-war-russia-again-won%27t-win <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, burst the 25th-anniversary balloon of the symbolic end of the cold war by warning of a new one, fed by NATO's eastward expansion. An economically weak USSR lost the last one; a still weaker Russia will lose this one too.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span><span class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/candles.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/candles.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="314" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>“Ukraine is me”: nationalists in Kiev.&nbsp;EPA / Tatyana Zenkovich.</span></span></p><p><span class="attribution"><span class="source"></span></span>Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, ushering in the end of communism in eastern Europe and the break-up of the Soviet Union, all the signs point to a new cold war between Russia and the West. As the former Soviet leader Mikhail <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-29966852">Gorbachev</a> pointed out, the Ukrainian crisis has triggered an accelerated downward spiral in relations between the erstwhile rivals. More than that, events over the past two weeks may even suggest that this may become a cold war with a very volatile hotspot right at the doorstep of the EU and NATO.</p> <p>Following parliamentary elections in Ukraine two weeks ago and separate elections in the rebel strongholds of Luhansk and Donetsk last week, it seems the now year-long crisis is heading for yet another climax. Not only were the elections in rebel-held areas in clear contravention of a 5 September agreement between the Ukrainian government and rebel representatives, but whatever ceasefire and disengagement plan the two sides had agreed to on 5 September and further specified two weeks later is now <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-04/poroshenko-asks-to-end-east-ukraine-s-autonomy-after-vote.html">irreparably damaged</a> after the Ukrainian president asked parliament to revoke a recent law offering more autonomy to the east against a background of escalating violence.</p> <p>Far from just the occasional violations, the past three days have seen a significant escalation of <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-29975341">fighting</a> in and around Donetsk. Evidence has emerged of significant <a href="http://www.voanews.com/content/kyiv-says-russian-weapons-troops-are-in-east-ukraine/2512162.html">military supplies</a> reaching the rebels from Russia. Much of this equipment, as well as additional troops, was <a href="http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/126483">confirmed</a> by&nbsp;<span>monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe to have made its way to Donetsk and Makeevka, including tanks and howitzers. This followed a decision earlier in the week by the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, to </span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-29905014">send</a><span> additional army units to the area in response to what Ukraine and its Western partners consider </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/03/ukraine-rebel-elections-illegal-eu-mogherini">illegal</a><span> elections. While </span><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/paulroderickgregory/2014/11/08/russia-uses-semantics-to-walk-back-recognition-of-donbass-elections-before-g20-summit/">Russia</a><span> has stopped short of recognising the elections, Moscow has said it respects the outcome.</span></p> <p>The rebels are firmly entrenched in a large area along Ukraine’s south-eastern border with Russia, stretching from just north of Luhansk to the port city of Novoazovsk at the Sea of Azov. They hold the area around Luhansk airport but do not have control of Donetsk airport or the strategic port of Mariupol. Nonetheless, Ukraine has no military capabilities at the moment to cut the rebels off from Russian supply lines, as troop and equipment movements over the past days clearly demonstrate.</p> <h2>Frozen conflict</h2> <p>Ukraine’s weakness is only part of the story. A second dimension of the evolving crisis is that Russia is clearly prepared to do whatever it takes to shore up the rebels and enable them to resist any Ukrainian effort to retake the east by force. To achieve this, Russia does not need to recognise rebel elections or referendums on independence or annex the areas as it did with Crimea in March<span>—</span><span>the Kremlin simply provides enough military capability to the rebels to hold on to the areas they already control. This has the added advantage of keeping the new government in Kiev busy focusing on the east, spending scarce resources on futile military efforts to regain full sovereignty over all of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.</span></p><p><span class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/servicemen_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/servicemen_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Ukrainian servicemen preparing for action. EPA / Dmitriy Lipavskiy.</span></p> <p>While it may not look like it at the moment, the rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine are on a straight course to become yet another so-called frozen conflict in the Russian periphery. Russian actions over the past few days and weeks have all the hallmarks of policies that were tried and tested in the early 1990s: a shaky, Russian-mediated ceasefire (the Minsk talks leading to the agreements of <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/05/us-ukraine-crisis-idUSKBN0GZ18D20140905">5</a> and <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/19/us-ukraine-crisis-talks-idUSKBN0HE2JD20140919">19</a>&nbsp;<span>September</span><span>), modest gestures of conciliation towards the affected state (the EU-mediated Russian-Ukrainian gas deal of 30 October) and military and humanitarian support to consolidate the separatist regime and increase its dependence on Moscow (the various official and unofficial forms of assistance rendered to the rebels over the past several months). That said, it is also worthwhile to remember that establishing </span><em>de facto</em><span> states, such as in Georgia and Moldova, was always a means to an end</span><span>—</span><span>to dictate the terms of “reunification”, to gain permanent control over some former Soviet republics' foreign-policy choices.</span></p> <p>Russia, it seems, may be getting away not just with the illegal annexation of Crimea but also with establishing yet another <em>de facto</em> state under its control, thus frustrating another country’s sovereign choice of seeking closer integration with the EU<span>—</span><span>either through permanent Russian-controlled instability like we see now or through a federated Ukraine in which the eastern regions would be able to represent Moscow’s interests effectively in Kiev. But this may be a serious miscalculation on Russia’s part. </span></p><p><span>Unlike 20 years ago, Ukraine’s Western partners have imposed gradually harder-hitting sanctions, the escalation of the crisis has sent the Russian rouble into free-fall and the Russian economy teeters on the brink of recession. Moreover, sustaining four million people in eastern Ukraine is of an entirely different magnitude to doing so for tens of thousands in South Ossetia and Abkhazia or a few hundred thousand in Transnistria.</span></p> <p>Russia may not need a full-scale war to retain a foothold in eastern Ukraine at the moment, but it can hardly afford one either<span>—</span><span>and decreasingly so. We may well be at the beginning of a new cold war but, as with the last one, Russia is unlikely to win it. This offers some hope in the long term, but it is hardly a cause for yet another round of the Western triumphalism that Gorbachev considers the main reason for the regression in East-West relations. Because, when Russia eventually loses, this will have come at a much higher cost to many more people and countries than Russia and Ukraine.</span></p><p><em>This article was originally published on <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a>. Read the <a href="http://theconversation.com/in-ukraine-the-start-of-a-new-cold-war-that-russia-cant-win-33988">original article</a>. </em></p><p> <img src="https://counter.theconversation.edu.au/content/33988/count.gif" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-antonova/postelection-ukrainians-and-russians-face-uncertain-future">Post-election, Ukrainians and Russians face an uncertain future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-shishkin/russian-myth-of-europe">The Russian myth of Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/warmedup-cold-war">A warmed-up cold war</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Russia Conflict International politics rule of law postsoviet future of europe european security ukraine russia & eurasia europe Tatyana Malyarenko Stefan Wolff Diplomacy Mon, 10 Nov 2014 12:22:39 +0000 Stefan Wolff and Tatyana Malyarenko 87613 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A new, Eurasian, world order https://www.opendemocracy.net/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/new-eurasian-world-order <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>China and Russia are at the heart of the world's shifting power-balance. But current cooperation between them is likely to give way to tension. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The evolving relationship between China and Russia is a strong indication of wider changes in the world's economy and geopolitics. Consider two recent events. After much talking and speculation, China and Russia finally signed a long-term gas-trading "mega-deal" in Beijing on 21 May 2014. The <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/22/world/asia/china-russia-gas-deal.html">agreement</a> is valid for thirty years and estimated to be worth some $400 billion. As yet, though, there are no official figures on the price of Russian gas exported to China. Then, on 29 May, Russia along with two of its regional allies, Kazakhstan and Belarus, <a href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2014/05/introducing-eurasian-economic-union">founded</a> the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in Astana, Kazakhstan's capital. </p><p>These initiatives give a fresh <a href="http://www.bjreview.com.cn/print/txt/2014-05/19/content_619401.htm">boost</a> to the familiar question of whether a "new world order", both political and economic, is in the making - and whether China and Russia will "rule" it together, at least in Eurasia. In the shorter term, with China and Russia cooperating on many issues, this seems possible. In the long term, though, the two countries risk finding themselves at loggerheads. This emerges from a closer look at three aspects of their relationship.&nbsp; </p><p><strong>Energy and rivalry</strong></p><p>The first is <em>energy</em>, which is of course at the heart of that gas deal. Russia's own Energy Strategy 2030 makes clear that Moscow is increasingly <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-27499883">looking</a> east, and aims at developing gas-and-oil fields in regions such as Siberia, the Arctic, and its far east. China for its part needs resources and transit ("new silk roads") to the Middle East and eastern Europe; it is already the major trading partner of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan, and has invested massively in the whole of central Asia, especially in the energy sector. </p><p>At the same time, Saudi Arabia is China’s top petroleum supplier, and the Gulf countries trade huge quantities of fuel with Beijing. Since the sea-transport routes from the Gulf to China must pass strategically sensitive <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/oil-chokepoints-suez-canal-2011-1?op=1">choke-points</a> (the Straits of Hormuz and Malacca),&nbsp; the importance of land connections via central Asia is increasing. This is where a clash with Russia becomes possible, and in the longer term even likely. Russia, after all, with some reason tends to consider central Asia part of its "near abroad". </p><p>Remittances from Russia account for almost half of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan’s economies. The two countries host Russian military bases and its <a href="http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/baikonur.html">Baikonur</a> cosmodrome, and a quarter of Kazakhstan's population are Russian native speakers. There are also significant Russian <a href="http://www.irinnews.org/report/20181/turkmenistan-focus-on-the-russian-minority">minorities</a> in resource-rich Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Moreover, Russia remains popular in central Asia, something not always the case with China. A Gallup survey <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/world.aspx">published</a> in 2011 found that Russia’s regional leadership would be approved by 94% in Tajikistan, 84% in Kyrgyzstan, 81% in Uzbekistan, and 73% in Kazakhstan. Thus, Russia has a strong presence in the region and will hardly concede any leadership role, political or economic, to China. </p><p><strong>Finance and politics</strong></p><p>The second aspect is <em>finance</em>. China’s slow but steadfast reforms has pushed the yuan to become the second most used currency in global trade and (in October 2013) the ninth most traded. Russia is financially weaker; even in the EEU, Almaty could become one of the new body's financial capitals. At the moment, Russia needs Beijing’s financial stability and might, and the two countries are working towards the establishment of a common <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/democracy-in-credit-new-agency-new-order">credit-ratings </a>agency, as well as a BRICS development bank. </p><p>In the longer term, however, Russia - most recently put under a further level of sanctions by the European Union following the shooting down of the MH-17 airliner - risks finding itself squeezed between the west and a large east Asian capital market, embodied in an Asia-Pacific <a href="http://www.docstoc.com/docs/153507438/An-Asian-super-bourse-Still-possibility-Loo-Partners-LLP"><em>superbourse</em></a> which is the likely outcome of stock-exchange <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/democracy-in-credit-new-agency-new-order">mergers</a> in the region. When China’s financial markets are more open and developed, their potential to give shape to an east Asian equivalent of Wall Street will fully unfold. This would be a problem for Moscow, which would remain marginalised. </p><p><strong>Security and economics</strong></p><p>The third aspect of the Russia-China relationship is <em>security</em>. Here too central Asia is at the heart. Moscow controls the region in direct and indirect ways (for instance, its intelligence services), while China has taken the lead in terms of trade and investments. This looks like a fair division of labour, but the balance could change if, for example, Chinese investments were threatened. In that case, China might be tempted to intervene.&nbsp; </p><p>China and Russia also <a href="http://thediplomat.com/2014/07/the-shanghai-cooperation-organization-and-central-asian-security/">meet</a> in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which <em>inter alia</em> targets extremism, separatism, and fundamentalism. After the Eurasian Economic Union is fully <a href="http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_06_21/Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan-to-ratify-Eurasian-Economic-Union-treaty-this-autumn-6009/">established</a> in January 2015, however - and probably enlarged to new countries - the SCO's future is less clear. The EEA's own role as an economic union may change. </p><p>The EEU began in 2010 as a customs union, but has already been transformed. There is a Eurasian Commission, <a href="http://www.eurasiancommission.org/en/nae/news/Pages/14-04-2014-1.aspx">headed</a> by Viktor Kristenko, a Eurasian Development Bank, and even rumours about a Eurasian currency (the so-called <em>alting</em>). Thus, the EEU reproduces the form of the European Union’s institutions, though in an authoritarian way (and ironic, since it began as an alternative to the EU). </p><p>Today, the EEU is becoming an instrument to compete globally and contain rising superpowers like China itself. Russia, in demographic and economic terms, risks being dwarfed by its giant to the southeast. It can regain global status only by joining forces with neighbouring countries, which at some point will have to choose between Russia and China. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, for instance, seem inclined to join the EEU, but the consequences of common tariffs on these still weak and poor states - which depend on <a href="http://www.cbr.ru/eng/statistics/print.aspx?file=CrossBorder/Personal%20Remittances_CIS_e.htm">remittances</a> from Russia and goods from China - may be severe. </p><p>Yet more states - perhaps Turkey, Vietnam or even India - might yet consider <a href="http://www.eureporter.co/world/2014/05/22/opinion-%D0%B5urasian-economic-union-new-horizons/">associating</a> with Vladimir Putin’s (and Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev’s) brainchild. Vietnam, experiencing renewed tensions with China, might prefer political closeness to Russia. The Kremlin’s diplomacy has been active and consistent; in his visit to south America in May 2014, foreign minister Sergey Lavrov <a href="http://www.acercandonaciones.com/en/diplomacia/cristina-recibio-al-canciller-ruso-sergey-lavrov.html">enlisted</a> Argentina to join the sixth BRICS summit, <a href="http://www.mea.gov.in/bilateral-documents.htm?dtl/23635/Sixth+BRICS+Summit++Fortaleza+Declaration">held</a> on 15 July in Fortaleza, Brazil. A "Eurasian Russia" seeks to become a truly global player. </p><p><strong>In search of balance</strong></p><p>China and Russia have many and good reasons to cooperate, but in the long term their relations might become strained, particularly if the overall economic gap keeps widening in China’s favour. A possible long-term source of trouble is the way the two countries interpret their foreign policies. China tends to emphasise trade and economic growth; Russia is keener on security and maintaining a sphere under its authority in most parts of the former Soviet Union (whose disintegration was <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/28/us-ukraine-crisis-eurasia-idUSKBN0E81HI20140528">dubbed</a> by Putin "a geopolitical catastrophe"). This diversity might be seen as a result of different historical trajectories - Beijing's momentous economic rise, Moscow's humiliation (in the 1990s) <em>vis-à-vis</em> the west. These differences could also put the countries at odds.&nbsp; </p><p>Will other states be able to step in and play a balancing role? Since Narendra Modi’s election, India is perceived as more assertive and has already made friendly moves towards both Moscow and Beijing. Iran might reap some benefit as well. The United States is coming to terms with its own errors in the "greater Middle East" and will probably stay out for some time, apart from Barack Obama's<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/americas-chimerical-pivot"> rhetoric</a> of the "Asia pivot’. The European Union looks more <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/europe-freezes-eurasia-pivots">uncertain</a> and divided than ever, and still looking for a new foreign-policy chief. Welcome to the new, and uncertain, world order. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.linkiesta.it/blogs/giovine-europa-now"><em>Giovine Europa Now</em></a></p><p><a href="http://www.eastasiaforum.org/">East Asia Forum</a></p><p><a href="http://thebricspost.com/"><em>The Brics Post</em></a></p><p><a href="http://www.eurasianet.org/node/68106">Eurasianet.org</a></p><p><em><a href="http://www.bilaterals.org/?-Asia-Pacific-">Bilaterals.org</a></em></p><p>Joseph E Schwartzberg, <a href="http://unu.edu/publications/books/transforming-the-united-nations-system-designs-for-a-workable-world.html#overview"><em>Transforming the United Nations System: Designs for a Workable World</em></a> (United Nations University Press, 2013)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ernesto Gallo and <span>Giovanni Biava are </span>scholars of international relations and co-authors of many articles on the subject, many published on <a href="http://www.linkiesta.it/blogs/giovine-europa-now"><em>Giovine Europa Now</em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/europe-freezes-eurasia-pivots">Europe freezes, Eurasia pivots</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/americas-chimerical-pivot">America&#039;s chimerical pivot </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/democracy-in-asian-century">Democracy in the &quot;Asian century&quot; </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/western-democracy-decline-and">Western democracy: decline and...</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/democracy-in-credit-new-agency-new-order">Democracy in credit: new agency, new order</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> <div class="field-item even"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Russia China Democracy and government Economics International politics institutions & government Globalisation democracy & power russia & eurasia Giovanni Biava Ernesto Gallo Tue, 29 Jul 2014 02:26:23 +0000 Ernesto Gallo and Giovanni Biava 84797 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The ultimate conspiracy theory https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/alexandr-litoy/ultimate-conspiracy-theory <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" src="http://opendemocracy.net/files/Fyodorov 1.jpg" alt="" width="160" />The National Liberation Movement, led by Yevgeny Fyorodov, a Duma Deputy, believes that Russia has been occupied by the Americans, that the US has been drafting Russia's laws... But the NLM has a plan to save Russia. <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%81%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B4%D1%80-%D0%BB%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%B9/konspirilogichesky-suverenitet">на русском языке</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Events in Ukraine have set new standards for Russian patriotism. Rooting out and dealing with traitors is now the official line coming from Vladimir Putin. Yevgeny Fyodorov, a Duma Deputy and 'United Russia' man, duly set up the NLM (<a href="http://www.geopolitica.ru/en/article/national-liberation-movement-russia-today#.U4dDMl4cIds" target="_blank">National Liberation Movement</a>) to garner popular support for the official introduction of censorship, the establishment of a government ideology, and an end to Russia's international obligations.</p><h2>Russia is under occupation</h2><p><span>'We see that Putin is starting to muster his forces for a general attack, a revolt against the occupiers. Foreign agents, or anyone who might be one, have been purged and this is being done completely openly,' said Fyodorov at an NLM rally.</span></p><p class="pullquote-right">NLM supporters are convinced that the country has been occupied by the Americans</p><p><span>Fyodorov supporters come to street rallies with portraits of Stalin, Putin and the black and orange ribbons which used to adorn the military Order of St George but are now widely-used as a patriotic symbol. They are convinced that their country has been occupied by the Americans, who, they say, are even drawing up Russian laws, for subsequent rubber-stamping by the Duma. According to the NLM, the Americans have been in control of 'United Russia,' the ruling party, since 2003.</span></p><p><span>With confidence, Fyodorov states that 'Duma deputies are simply officials in occupied territory. All the laws regulating the system of governance passed by the Duma have been drafted in the USA.'</span></p><p><span>This belief, however, has not prevented Fyodorov from being a member of the 'United Russia' General Council; or from making 165 interventions in today's 'colonial' State Duma and, since 2012, presenting more than 500 draft laws, with a pass rate in the Lower Chamber of more than 50%.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Fedorov twitter quote.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Fedorov twitter quote.jpg" alt="'Russia, just like Ukraine, is occupied. In Ukraine it has simply entered a military phase'. Photo: http://vk.com/efedorov" title="" width="460" height="229" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'Russia, just like Ukraine, is occupied. In Ukraine it has simply entered a military phase'. Photo: http://vk.com/efedorov</span></span></span><span></span></span><span>Fyodorov, in fact, is one of the longest-standing members of the Russian parliament. He was first elected in 1993; in 1999, he was one of the founders of the 'Medved' [bear] bloc, which then became 'United Russia.' Between 2006 and 2011, he headed the parliamentary Economic Policy Committee, having previously held high-ranking posts in the Presidential Administration, the Finance, and Atomic Energies Ministries.</span></p><p>Fyodorov is now head of the parliamentary club 'For Sovereignty,' with members from all four parties represented in the Duma. The club's initiatives include the introduction of criminal liability for advocating separatism, and the creation of a system of perks for companies with less than 10% foreign capital. Club members recently called for criminal charges to be brought against Mikhail Gorbachev – for causing the collapse of the USSR.</p><h2>Root and branch reform</h2><p class="pullquote-right">NLM is willing to overthrow 'American colonialism' peacefully and democratically</p><p>NLM says that it is willing to overthrow 'American colonialism' peacefully and democratically. To that end, close associates of Fyodorov are pushing for a referendum to assist Russians in their attempts to amend the 'colonial constitution.' The new 'national' constitution will have no ban on either censorship or a state ideology; the country will no longer submit to the sovereignty of international law, and the Central Bank will be answerable to the government. The NLM considers that, by nationalising the Central Bank, it will be possible to do away with 'linking the rouble to the dollar.'<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Our country our rules.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Our country our rules.jpg" alt="'Our country, our rules' - National Liberation Movement van, St Petersburg. Photo: vk.com/nodspb" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'Our country, our rules' - National Liberation Movement van, St Petersburg. Photo: vk.com/nodspb</span></span></span></p><p>The National Liberation Movement regards Vladimir Putin as its leader, though Fyodorov says that he does not agree his battle tactics with the president, rather, the movement considers that Putin, to all intents and purposes, supports it, a belief which, it says, can be seen from his recent actions. 'The people expect some actions from the president, and the president from the people,' explains NLM Press Secretary Aminat Anchokova. In Fyodorov's view Putin will not attempt total regime change without massive popular support and NLM is trying to help him to achieve this.&nbsp;</p><h2>Growing support</h2><p class="pullquote-right">NLM has regularly featured on TV screens, because its street protests support Vladimir Putin's foreign policy</p><p>The National Liberation Movement was founded in 2011, though Fyodorov supporters complain on their website that 'hostile' media outlets keep quiet about their activities. What is more likely is that the NLM rallies were simply of little interest to the media.</p><p>In recent months, however, NLM has regularly featured on TV screens, because its street protests support Vladimir Putin's foreign policy. Moreover, the NLM regional network has been growing since the start of the troubles in Ukraine, and now covers dozens of cities throughout Russia. The official NLM site maintains that there are branch offices in 260 cities throughout all of Russia's 85 regions. This would appear to be true: an examination of social media accounts belonging to NLM cell leaders shows that they are not 'virtual people' but committed activists.&nbsp;The NLM site has contact details for both urban and district offices; by no means every Russian political party has such a well-distributed network. Photographs show that NLM protest meetings attract hundreds of people, many of whom are young people aged between 20 and 30. The growing number of NLM supporters can also be gauged by Fyodorov’s page on VKontakte, with more than 50,000 followers.<br /><br /><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Hands off the Kievan Rus.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Hands off the Kievan Rus.jpg" alt="'USA - hands off the Kievan Rus'. NLM protest outside US Consulate, St. Petersburg, May 2014. Photo: vk.com/nodspb" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'USA - hands off the Kievan Rus'. NLM protest outside US Consulate, St Petersburg, May 2014. Photo: vk.com/nodspb</span></span></span>NLM enjoys the support of some businessmen: it runs a club called 'National Business' with some 80 SMEs as members, so theoretically Fyodorov's movement could finance itself, without the need for (possible) Kremlin funding.</span></p><p class="pullquote-right">Theoretically Fyodorov's movement could finance itself, without the need for Kremlin funding</p><p>Fyodorov maintains that he is setting up NLM International with headquarters in Minsk, Belarus, for anti-American movements drawn from the rest of the world. There are also branches in Ukraine, Moldova, Kazkahstan. One notes that Belarus, Moldova and Kazakhstan are the former Soviet countries in which Putin might yet perceive a need to 'protect Russian speakers.'</p><p>The dense network of NLM branches in Ukraine and Crimea came into being in January 2014, just before the Yanukovych regime collapsed. The ruling Party of Regions publicity system was already in a state of disintegration, and one of the first 'anti-Maidan' groups in social media was on VKontakte: &nbsp;'Berkut, the bulwark of calm' was set up in part by Fyodorov's supporters [Berkut, or Golden Eagle, was the special police unit notorious for violence during Maidan and subsequently disbanded. They have now re-formed in Eastern Ukraine].</p><p>NLM is clearly overstating its role in events in Crimean and southeastern Ukraine, when it describes itself as one of the main enemies of ultra right-wing 'Pravyi sektor,' but Fyodorov supporters do regularly make appearances in video recordings of pro-Russian rallies of various kinds.</p><h2>The heavy mob</h2><p>Indeed, regional supporters of Yevgeny Fyodorov are regularly at the centre of local rows, doing battle with members of the opposition. In Tyumen, a master class by the opposition TV presenter Kseniya Sobchak was cancelled at the insistence of NLM activists, who complained to the authorities that she was 'attacking the moral and spiritual foundations of Russian national culture.'</p><p>In Zlatoust (Ural Mountains) the NLM is doing battle with the 'Workers' rights' movement, set up to defend the interests of workers sacked from the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.metal-expo.ru/en/exhibition/history/participant18.html?id=28635" target="_blank">local steel works</a>. The workers' protests have already descended to the level of fisticuffs with, among others, NLM activists. In Samara and Nizhnii Novgorod, NLM activists tried to disrupt protests in support of people who had taken part in protests on Moscow's Bolotnaya Square.</p><p>On 6 March, ex-Pussy Rioters Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Mariya Alyokhina visited Nizhnii Novgorod, in connection with their human rights <a href="http://voiceproject.org/campaign/zona-prava/" target="_blank">project</a> 'The zone of rights' (or 'Law Zone'). Early that morning they went into McDonald's near the station there and were attacked by young men who poured green disinfectant over them, hurled metal objects at them and insulted them. Alyokhina was concussed and Tolokonnikova received burns to her skin and her eyes.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Fyodorov 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Fyodorov 2.jpg" alt="Branches of Yevgeny Fyodorov's National Liberation Movement exist across Russia and the post-Soviet space. Photo: eafedorov.ru" title="" width="460" height="325" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Branches of Yevgeny Fyodorov's National Liberation Movement exist across Russia and the CIS. Photo: eafedorov.ru</span></span></span><span>The attackers were soon identified; Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina posted their photos on the internet. Although the local NLM branch denies any part in the incident, the attacker's VKontakte [Russian Facebook equivalent] pages show that the hooligans are Fyodorov sympathisers.</span></p><p>After investigating the case for one month, the local police found no grounds for bringing criminal charges and fined the thugs between 500 and 1000 roubles (10-20 GBP). Igor Kalyapin, well-known human rights campaigner and head of the Committee against Torture, based in Nizhnii Novgorod, maintains that the published photographs show not only the thugs who attacked Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova, but officers from the local '<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/grigory-tumanov/dark-doings-of-russia%E2%80%99s-centre-e" target="_blank">Centre E</a>' as well.</p><h2>The Zeitgeist</h2><p>The prospects for Fyodorov's 'battle with the Americans' are hard to calculate: events in southeastern Ukraine are making rapid changes to Russia's political landscape, and it is difficult to say to what extent the national-patriotic lobby inside the Kremlin has the ability to become any more powerful.</p><p>Nevertheless, anti-American feeling and the perception of the US as Russia's strategic enemy have been much in evidence throughout Russia since the 90s, and these ideas effectively received the stamp of government approval from the moment Vladimir Putin was re-elected president in 2012. The US-Russia confrontation is a regular subject of discussion on state-controlled TV channels (which is most of them).</p><p><span class="pullquote-right">'48% of respondents considered that in its relations with the US, Russia 'should keep its distance'</span></p><p>The results of this propaganda took no time at all to make themselves felt. At the end of April, the '<a href="http://www.levada.ru/eng/" target="_blank">Levada Center</a>' (the main independent polling and sociological research organisation in Russia) carried out a survey looking at Russian perceptions of Americans. 48% of respondents were of the opinion that in its relations with the US, Russia 'should keep its distance.' Clearly, Fyodorov is tapping into this anti-American feeling.</p><p>Despite this, Fyodorov has not been hugely successful in his public discussions with opponents. In February 2011, almost a year before the massed 'white ribbon' uprising of 2011/12, he lost out to Aleksei Navalny, one of the Russian opposition leaders, in debates on the Finam FM radio station. 99% of listeners supported Navalny, but only 1% were prepared to vote for Fyodorov.</p><p>But while leading pro-Kremlin political commentators (Dmitry Orlov, Sergei Markov and Aleksei Mukhin) point out that Fyodorov is very inclined to conspiracy theories, and many Russians might well think that his views tend to the extreme, at this moment they fit in with the Zeitgeist.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andreas-umland/lies-and-innuendos-what-happens-when-you-take-on-russian-far-right">Lies and Innuendos: What happens when you take on the Russian far right</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/alexandr-litoy/prisoners-without-conscience-BORN-russian-nationalist-neo-nazi">Prisoners without conscience</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/poel-karp/russian-politics-right-confusion">Russian politics: a right confusion</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia russia & eurasia russia Alexandr Litoy Russia Politics Internal Conflict Thu, 05 Jun 2014 18:40:34 +0000 Alexandr Litoy 83480 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Azerbaijan challenges Europe's human-rights mettle https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/sonia-rothwell/azerbaijan-challenges-europes-humanrights-mettle <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As Azerbaijan takes up the six-month chair of the Council of Europe, the deteriorating human-rights situation in the Caucasus state exposes its disregard for its rights obligations and risks further complication by the crisis in Ukraine</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/council of europe.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/council of europe.jpg" alt="Memorial outside Council of Europe in Strasbourg" title="" width="460" height="352" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Post-war Europe's moral conscience: the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. Wikimedia Commons / EPei. Creative Commons.</span></span></span>News of unrest in Ukraine earlier this year was greeted with mild then growing panic by European governments, concerned about supplies of gas to the continent’s energy network. The situation, like an earlier shutdown of gas supplies by Russia, again highlighted how closely energy security is tied to geopolitics. Moreover, the question <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-06/putin-stirs-azeri-angst-russia-will-seek-to-extend-sway.html">hung in the air</a>: could Ukraine really be the only state open to potential incursion by Russia?</p> <p>Later, on 6 May in Azerbaijan, a Baku court sentenced eight N!DA youth movement activists to between six and eight years in jail after they were convicted on charges of possessing drugs, explosives and intending to cause public disorder. In April, the peace activist Leyla Yunus and her husband were detained at Baku airport, prompting calls from the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, <a href="http://www.humanrightseurope.org/2014/04/azerbaijan-muiznieks-dismayed-by-detention-of-human-rights-activist/">Nils Muižnieks</a>, and others for the Azerbaijani government to “immediately halt such practice” and “to pay urgent attention to these issues so as to comply with Azerbaijan’s human rights obligations and commitments as a member state of the Council of Europe”. </p> <p>These latest arrests and those of others who have been critical of the government—journalists who report on state corruption, writers and online activists—are allegedly due to issues unrelated to their political views. Drug trafficking, corruption, weapons possession, leaking of state secrets to the US … all are allegations which have been levelled against civil-society organisations and led to activists being jailed. Baku has defended its actions to the Council of Europe, saying activists’ arrests are not linked to their anti-government stance. But if you really wanted to silence and discredit your critics, wouldn’t you find another, less heroic-seeming reason for imprisoning them? </p> <p>In another criticised move intensifying pressure on basic freedoms, in February the government signed into law tough new finance rules. These have restricted the ability of NGOs to operate in Azerbaijan by burdening them with a bureaucracy which <a href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/EUR55/004/2014/en/901be20d-5c2b-42e1-8e8e-b7daf972c9f2/eur550042014en.pdf">Amnesty International says</a> may push to the limits organisations’ ability to operate legitimately.</p> <h2><strong>Economic significance</strong></h2> <p>So how are all these issues connected? </p> <p>Economically, Azerbaijan, despite its small population, is a key state to members of the European Union and vice versa. The British trade envoy to the region, Charles Hendry, has <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140211/debtext/140211-0004.htm">pointed out</a> that in addition to the UK being Azerbaijan’s 15th largest trading partner (not top rank, granted, but significant,) it is “by far the biggest investor in Azerbaijan through BP and other companies in that sector” and the country is “increasingly important to the British economy”.</p> <p>And that of course means diplomatic channels must be navigated particularly carefully.</p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">As one of the 47 members of the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan is bound by the European Convention on Human Rights.</span></p><p><span></span>Azerbaijan has so far sidestepped the Ukraine crisis, with good reason. As a former member of the Soviet Union and a recipient of funding from the EU’s eastern-neighbourhood programme, it is in a position to benefit both from Russia’s desire to expand its own, EU-rivalling, customs union and the EU’s desire to expand its influence beyond its borders. </p> <p>And then there are the <a href="https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/aj.html">energy reserves</a>. Although analysts believe production from its sizeable oil reserves, so important for the Azerbaijani economy, is in decline, the huge <a href="http://www.bp.com/en_az/caspian/operationsprojects/Shahdeniz.html">Shah Deniz gas field</a> is within its borders and is a useful alternative supplier of gas to Europe. Azerbaijani gas, arriving at the Turkish terminal of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, can help Europe reduce its energy dependency on Russia and thus moderate the impact of the problematic relationship with Moscow. </p> <p>Geopolitically, then, Azerbaijan has advantages it could exploit; mounting EU concerns about clampdowns on NGOs and those campaigning for fundamental democratic freedoms must be delicately balanced against a pragmatic need to enhance Europe’s energy security, something that has become even more acute over the last few months. Equally, however, concerns that Moscow may turn its imperial attention to Baku mean Azerbaijan must play its foreign-policy hand carefully and be sure not to upset its huge western partner and potential ally.</p> <p>Lastly but critically, Azerbaijan is one of the sides in a particularly entrenched and bitter “frozen conflict”, the dispute with Armenia over <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18270325">Nagorno Karabakh</a>. Russia is one of the members of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe overseeing negotiations and in 1994 it brokered a ceasefire which saw Karabakh plus swathes of Azeri territory around the enclave become Armenian.&nbsp; Russia is not averse to playing diplomatic hardball for its own advantage and Azerbaijan will be mindful of Russia’s influence in this sore conflict.</p> <h2><strong>Highly critical</strong></h2> <p>But for how long can Azerbaijan resist calls for action? Just weeks before it took on the role of chair of the Council of Europe, a <a href="https://wcd.coe.int/com.instranet.InstraServlet?command=com.instranet.CmdBlobGet&amp;InstranetImage=2510767&amp;SecMode=1&amp;DocId=2130164&amp;Usage=2">highly critical report</a> emerged from that very organisation—from the office of Muižnieks. In it the human-rights commissioner called for the release of “all persons who are in detention because of the views they hold and express” and said the president, Ilham&nbsp; Aliyev, should make this a priority.</p> <p>He rejected the suggestion that those arrested were not being punished for their views. He said that the charges “lack credibility and often follow critical reports or postings on the Internet” and deplored what he said was a rising trend. And despite slight improvements to Azerbaijan’s defamation law, which treats defamation as a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment rather than a civil infraction, Muižnieks’ report called urgently for more positive action from Baku. </p> <p>As one of the 47 members of the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan is bound by the European Convention on Human Rights. The obvious question is: can a state which is so openly denying its critics their human rights un-hypocritically take the chair of the Council of Europe—especially when it is the subject of such an unflattering report from within it?<strong></strong></p> <p>Last year Aliyev was elected to a third term of office—there being no limit to how many he may serve under Azerbaijani law—following a pattern of authoritarianism, comprehensively criticised in the 2012 European Stability Report report “<a href="http://www.esiweb.org/pdf/esi_document_id_131.pdf">Caviar Diplomacy</a>”, which did little to boost Azerbaijan’s image among human-rights groups. There is an opportunity for positive action as it assumes the chair of the Council of Europe but, given its historic and recent behaviour and the developments in Ukraine, the question of the shape this could take has become more complex. </p> <p>Some highly-skilled diplomacy as well as strong political will will be required on all sides if Azerbaijan is to improve its human-rights record to the satisfaction of its many critics. The credibility of the Council of Europe itself is at stake if it doesn’t.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Human Rights Watch <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/05/13/azerbaijan-new-arrests-convictions-critics">documents </a>Azerbaijan's campaign against activists, bloggers, journalists and human-rights defenders.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/aslan-amani/how-europe-failed-azerbaijan">How Europe failed Azerbaijan</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Azerbaijan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Azerbaijan Democracy and government International politics postsoviet human rights european security russia & eurasia Sonia Rothwell Nagorno-Karabakh war Diplomacy State violence Tue, 13 May 2014 23:00:01 +0000 Sonia Rothwell 82784 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Europe freezes, Eurasia pivots https://www.opendemocracy.net/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/europe-freezes-eurasia-pivots <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Behind the crisis in Ukraine lie deeper changes that are transforming the global economic and and political order, say Giovanni Bavia &amp; Ernesto Gallo.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>What is at stake in Ukraine and the Crimea, and why has Russia's reaction to events there been so powerful? The obvious answers, which refer to east-west confrontation, the European Union or "democracy", do not go very far, for they omit or underplay the more fundamental issues.&nbsp; are at stake. Here are four which deserve to be considered.</p><p><strong>Down with Eurasia</strong></p><p>The United States and the European Union are uncomfortable with Vladimir Putin’s strategic "masterplan", namely his ambition to <a href="http://www.eurasianet.org/node/68106">create</a> a Eurasian Union. The latter's characteristics and purpose were have been outlined by Russia’s president in several speeches and articles, including an<a href="http://izvestia.ru/"> <em>Izvestia</em></a> article on 4 October 2011. Such a union, Putin <a href="http://www.hungary.mid.ru/hu/news11_23_hu.html">wrote</a> then, would be ‘’an effective bridge between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific region”. At present there already <a href="http://www.evrazes.com/en/about/">exists</a> a customs union between Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan (created in 2010), and a common economic market among the same countries (established in January 2012). Russia sees Ukraine as important in relation to this project because of its size (45 million people), its history (Kiev is the birthplace of the <a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?isbn=9780300016475">historic</a> Rus’ east-Slavic state), its <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/ukraine.htm">proximity</a> to Russia, and its role in the transit of gas-and-oil pipelines. Without Ukraine, any Eurasian Union can be considered incomplete. </p><p>Many in the west view supporting for Ukraine and promotion of unrest there as a way to jeopardise Putin’s grand <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/27/us-ukraine-crisis-centralasia-idUSBREA2Q0BP20140327">project</a> and also to expose what they see as Russia’s imperialist attitude towards the country. As early as 2012, the then United States secretary of state Hillary Clinton <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a5b15b14-3fcf-11e2-9f71-00144feabdc0.html">dubbed</a> the plan "a move to re-Sovietise the region". Yet she might have got it wrong, as might <a href="http://csis.org/expert/zbigniew-brzezinski">Zbigniew Brzezinski </a>(himself US national-security adviser under Jimmy Carter) in his recommendation that the US should seek to fragment Russia and pit its minorities against each other (especially Muslims and Christians). </p><p>It's beyond doubt that Putin, Belarus's Alexander Lukashenko, and Kazakhstan's Nursultan Nazarbayev are authoritarian rulers, but the Eurasian Union could nonetheless represent something new. After all, countries such as Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan seem <a href="http://english.pravda.ru/world/ussr/23-04-2014/127423-belarus_russia-0/">inclined</a> to stay close to Moscow.&nbsp; Even Turkey, a Nato member but a close strategic and economic partner of Moscow, has <a href="http://carnegie.ru/eurasiaoutlook/?fa=54950&amp;reloadFlag=1">kept</a> a very low profile in the Crimea dispute. But in the end, what is so important about the Eurasian Union?</p><p><strong>The energy fix</strong></p><p>Russia alone holds some 26% of the world’s proven gas reserves. If the Eurasian Union included all the former USSR countries, the figure would rise to 39%. Moreover, Russia is on good terms with Iran (18%) and apparently also with Qatar (13% of the world’s known reserves. (This raises the question of why three other Gulf states <a href="http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/5e8103c4-a45b-11e3-9cb0-00144feab7de.html">withdrew</a> their ambassadors in Doha in March 2014, and whether there was a Russian connection). Central Asia, together with Russia, is also rich in oil, uranium, and metals. No wonder any European who looks at these data would already feel a "freeze". </p><p>If relations between Russia and the west grow even more tense, this could further <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/21/us-ukraine-crisis-russia-insight-idUSBREA2K07S20140321">boost</a> those between Russia and the east (especially China). Russia and China might face problems of their own in co-managing central Asia, but they could also agree on an effective division of labour whereby Moscow controls the region militarily and Beijing has a large stake in investments and the purchase of Russia’s energy sources. The matter of the currency to be used in China-Russia trade deals - gold, roubles, or the rising renmimbi - would then be posed? In any case, an aggressive western strategy towards Eurasia might bring the two giants closer, with potentially devastating effects on wider energy and financial markets. </p><p><strong>BlackRock bites</strong></p><p>The head of the massive asset-management company <a href="http://www.blackrock.com/">BlackRock</a>, which has more than $4 trillion dollars of assets under its wing, is Laurence D (Larry) Fink. He <a href="http://citywire.co.uk/wealth-manager/blackrocks-fink-russia-is-losing-an-economic-war/a739595">warned</a> Putin on 10 March 2014 that "Russia is losing an economic war". A few days after the start of the Ukraine crisis, Russia’s capital market lost a quarter of its value. Wall Street and City bankers in London are eager to enter this market, which is highly promising to potential investment in resources and minerals yet has so far remained largely closed to them. In few weeks, BlackRock swept the Italian market and <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/21/blackrock-monte-dei-paschi-idUSL6N0MI3OU20140321">bought</a> large shares of all its major banks (Intesa SanPaolo, Unicredit, and MPS). Germany might be next, and Russia certainly offers myriad opportunities - if it could be shorn of Putin and the infrastructure of a Eurasian Union. </p><p>The former KGB officer in the Kremlin, however, knows very well the potential risks of American economic and financial penetration. This itself is a strong motivation to look eastwards, where China continues to reform; in 2013 the <em>yuan</em> became the second most used currency in global trade after the dollar (and well ahead of the euro, in third place). If the project of a Brics bank <a href="http://rt.com/business/russia-brics-bank-g20-468/">becomes</a> reality, and the foundations of an Asia-Pacific superbourse are built, then China and Russia will share a powerful financial platform. China might even enter Russia's capital markets <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/americas-chimerical-pivot">before</a> the US does. </p><p>The role of finance is often overlooked, but is in fact extremely important. Among the prominent supporters of Ukraine’s integration with the EU are George Soros and the Ukrainian billionaire <a href="http://www.forbes.com/profile/victor-pinchuk/">Victor Pinchuk</a>, who is a partner (through the <a href="http://pinchukfund.org/en/">foundation</a> named after him) of Soros, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Brookings Institution, the Aspen Institute, and other well-known western organisation.</p><p><strong>Europe's stasis </strong></p><p>There is a strong feeling that, with or without Russian <a href="http://www.eia.gov/countries/country-data.cfm?fips=rs">gas</a>, the European Union's very brain is frozen. This condition has contributed to Ukraine’s crisis and now risks inflicting more damage on Europe itself. It seems hardly to make sense that Europe wishes to teach and even preach democracy abroad, when democracy in the EU is so <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21588381-seeking-confront-rise-eurosceptics-and-fill-democratic-deficit-democratic">flawed</a>. The <a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/aboutparliament/en/0046fccc11/Elections.html">elections</a> for the European parliament are taking place in May 2014, and it is highly likely that right-wing and anti-European forces will have the upper hand. In this respect it is worth recalling the words used by the influential US envoy to the EU, Victoria Nuland, in a <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26079957">leaked</a> phone conversation in February 2014 with Washington's ambassador to Ukraine. Who are the ultimate losers in this Euro-Asian-American story but Ukrainian and European&nbsp; citizens? <br /><br /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.linkiesta.it/blogs/giovine-europa-now"><em>Giovine Europa Now</em></a></p><p><a href="http://www.eastasiaforum.org/">East Asia Forum</a></p><p><a href="http://www.ustr.gov/tpp">Trans-Pacific Partnership</a></p><p><a href="http://thebricspost.com/"><em>The Brics Post</em></a></p><p><a href="http://www.eurasianet.org/node/68106">Eurasianet.org</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ernesto Gallo and <span>Giovanni Biava are </span>scholars of international relations and co-authors of many articles on the subject, many published on <a href="http://www.linkiesta.it/blogs/giovine-europa-now"><em>Giovine Europa Now</em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/americas-chimerical-pivot">America&#039;s chimerical pivot </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/democracy-in-asian-century">Democracy in the &quot;Asian century&quot; </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/western-democracy-decline-and">Western democracy: decline and...</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/democracy-in-credit-new-agency-new-order">Democracy in credit: new agency, new order</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ukraine </div> </div> </div> Ukraine Globalisation democracy & power russia & eurasia europe asia & pacific Giovanni Biava Ernesto Gallo Wed, 23 Apr 2014 19:24:17 +0000 Ernesto Gallo and Giovanni Biava 82154 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The new Russian power bloc https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/arash-falasiri/new-russian-power-bloc <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A quarter century after Mikhail Gorbachev supervised the collapse of Europe’s cold-war division, a world of new dividing lines is emerging—with Vladimir Putin playing an active part in inscribing them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/Erdoan_&amp;_Putin_2.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/Erdoan_&amp;_Putin_2.jpeg" alt="Erdogan meets Putin against backdrop of Turkish and Russian flags in St Petersburg." title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>New world order? An official photo of Putin and Erdogan in St Petersburg in December. Wikimedia / Kremlin.ru. Creative Commons.</span></span></span>It may have been a symbolic gesture when other world leaders suspended Russia’s membership of the G8 during the third Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands in late March, even as they declared that they “remain ready” to intensify sanctions if Russia were to take further action in Ukraine. Warning of this possibility, the US president, Barak Obama, described Russia as acting “out of weakness” and risking becoming an “internationally isolated country”.</span></p> <p>But while many Western leaders considered their “sanctions would hit Russia very badly”, as the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, put it, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, appears set on a long-run political plan, even if short-term economic losses have to be taken. And his ambitions may go beyond transforming Russia from the “regional power” of Obama’s condescension to a global one. </p> <h2>Western perspective: economy</h2> <p>Expressing satisfaction that the West was united in punishing Russia, if it did not reverse course, a US official said: “The cost is far greater for the Russians, who stand to lose much more.” Some experts suggest that the impact of sanctions on Russia’s stock markets will amount to millions of dollars a day. The head of its largest bank, the state-owned Sberbank, has warned Russia is at risk of recession. And the deputy economy minister has estimated capital flight in the first quarter of 2014 at up to 50 billion euro. </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">Putin’s gesture showed he had no reservations about supporting Sisi, even though his crackdown on the opposition had left hundreds of dead and thousands jailed</span></p><p><span></span>Less bullishly, however, Rutte conceded that sanctions might “hurt people in Europe and North America”. And he guaranteed that Western decision-makers would try to “design these sanctions in such a way that they will have maximum impact on the Russian economy and not on the Western world”. But EU members’ reliance on Russian energy could prove a critical deterrent against further action. If 40% of Russian gas is shipped through Ukraine, 35% of EU demand for fossil fuels, oil and gas, is met by Moscow. And while Obama said that “energy is obviously a central focus of our efforts”, he told the EU that it could not rely on the US alone to reduce its dependency on Russia. </p> <p>Before the Crimean parliament resolved to enter the Russian Federation, Putin claimed that since the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq the US had lacked moral authority, while the EU would be unable to manage another financial crisis. In that context, the key invocation in his speech to the Russian parliament was: “Let’s start the procedure.”</p> <h2>Eastern perspective: politics</h2> <p>While some experts have suggested Russia’s action in Crimea has been a reflex response to its loss of influence in Kiev, in a longer-term perspective Putin’s behaviour is based on a post-imperial complex, as a leader longing to reconstitute a new power bloc. Not only Western governments and Russia’s neighbours but many other countries will be faced with this emerging coalition.</p> <p>Take Iran and the nuclear question. With Russia the most “supportive friend” to the Islamic regime among UN Security Council members, Putin has been able to play a double role <em>vis-à-vis</em> the West and Teheran. While there are many economic and military reasons for the close relationship between the two countries, this pivotal position has benefited Russia regionally and internationally. Notably, Iran, the world’s largest source of natural gas, tries to play a pro-Russian role in the European energy market by concentrating only on Asian demand.</p> <p>Egypt is another example. The visit to Russia in February by the army chief and prospective presidential candidate, Abdel el-Sisi, came against a background of soured relationships with the US, Egypt’s long-time ally and military patron: Washington suspended some of its $1.5bn annual aid, most of which goes to the Egyptian military, following the latter’s deposition of the Islamist government last July. Although an Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson insisted that the Moscow visit was not intended to be “against anyone”, rather to “diversify partners”, Putin said he would support the general’s presidential bid—and both Russian and Egyptian media carried reports of a $2bn arms deal. </p> <p>Putin’s gesture showed he had no reservations about supporting Sisi, even though his crackdown on the opposition had left hundreds of dead and thousands jailed, including journalists who had ventured to criticise the regime. And the visit marked a significant tilt by Egypt, following the suspension of US and European aid. </p> <p>Elsewhere in the Middle East, Iran is acting as Russia’s advocate in supporting Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Turkey had been the most influential opponent of the Assad regime in the region. The recurring protests in its major cities have however led Ankara not only to suppress civil-society organisations but also to review its policy on Syria. Some analysts suggest that Iran has convinced the Turkish government, to sustain its authority, to shift towards the Eastern bloc. </p> <p>The prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had aspired to Turkey joining the EU from his time as mayor of Istanbul in the mid-1990s. But as he brands his opponents and protesters “terrorists”, supposedly guided by some Western countries, it seems he has revised his plan and shifted Turkey’s orientation eastwards. Although the situation between Turkey and Syria is still very critical, Iran is trying to reduce tensions to undermine US strategy and form an alternative regional coalition in favor of the Eastern powers. Even Iraq, under Saddam Hussein an ally of Russia, is moving toward this bloc, under the considerable influence of Iran on its Shia-dominated government. &nbsp;And while the Arab League summit in Kuwait in late March underlined its divisions over Syria, Lebanon—or at least its dominant Hizbullah faction—is another supporter of the regime in Damascus.</p> <h2>Telling evidence</h2> <p>Obama’s first visit to Saudi Arabia days later provided telling evidence of the emergence of a new bloc. White House positions, particularly its eventual support for the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and its failure to secure support for the rebels in Syria, have shocked the Saudi royal family and raised concerns that backing from the US, despite its reliance on Saudi oil, could not be relied on in future. According to Saudi media reports, anxieties over the Syrian civil war and US nuclear negotiation with Iran were top of King Abdullah’s concerns. </p> <p>The main mission of Obama’s visit was to assure the Saudis that he was not neglecting them: officials conceded “tactical differences” but claimed “strategic interests” were aligned. And the <em>Washington Post</em> reported that the US was ready to increase covert aid to Syrian rebels under a “new plan” which included training by the CIA. Yet while Saudi Arabia, the most powerful Sunni country, needs solid guarantees from the US to remain an ally, Iran, the most powerful Shiite state, leans towards the Eastern power configuration and encourages other regional governments to join this emerging bloc. </p> <p>The latest Freedom House report suggests that 80% of Russians believe that political and economic strength are more important than a “good democracy”. (Meanwhile, 84% of Chinese are strongly supportive of their government and believe that China is able to propose an alternative to “Western” democracy.) Even if for Obama “Russia is only a regional power”, to challenge his view Russia seems already to have set in train its own political scenario. To halt the “NATO progress toward the East”, as the Russian media put it, as well as achieving a more influential role, the Kremlin has started its procedure.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/agnia-grigas/who%E2%80%99s-next-on-putin%E2%80%99s-list-Ukraine-Putin">Who’s next on Putin’s list?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/elkhan-nuriyev/putin%E2%80%99s-plan-for-russia%E2%80%99s-neighbours-eurasian-union">Putin’s plan for Russia’s neighbours - a Eurasian Union</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Russia International politics postsoviet ukraine russia & eurasia russia Arash Falasiri oS analysis Security in Europe Security in Middle East and North Africa Fri, 04 Apr 2014 10:44:31 +0000 Arash Falasiri 81051 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Crimea's referendum: four dangers https://www.opendemocracy.net/natalia-mirimanova/crimeas-referendum-four-dangers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The planned vote to transfer Crimea from Ukraine to Russia will plant the seeds of greater conflict in the peninsula.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>A referendum can be a proper instrument of direct democracy. But if applied improperly, it may devalue the cause it was meant to advance. This is the case with the vote on 16 March 2014 announced by Crimea's authorities, who - following the takeover of the peninsula by Russia's armed forces - seek a result that would make Crimea part of the Russian Federation.</p><p>The most straightforward objection is constitutional. The <a href="http://www.president.gov.ua/en/content/constitution.html">constitution</a> of Ukraine, of which Crimea is an integral and recognised part, says that Ukraine's <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26387353">borders</a> can be altered only via an all-Ukrainian referendum. This is why the Crimean initiative (formally proposed and passed by the parliament of Crimea, an autonomous republic within Ukraine) is anti-constitutional. This makes it bad for Ukraine as a whole, but this "separatist" plebiscite could also prove counterproductive for Russians in Crimea, a majority of the population, and for the Russian Federation.</p><p>A proper referendum in Crimea, according to Ukraine's constitution, would require prior agreement between Kiev and Simferopol on its goals, legitimacy and the question to be asked (several recent and current examples confirm this, most notably the forthcoming <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-13326310">referendum</a> over Scotland's independence). In such a case of conflict between centre and region, the way to proceed is to undertake negotiations; to involve different interest-groups within the region; and to examine all the possible repercussions (political, economic and social) of any change of statehood. All this may take years to achieve, since the stakes are extremely high for both parties.</p><p>A peaceful process and outcome also require that both sides agree on procedural fundamentals. All laws and formalities must be in place, with central government and regional authorities sharing a clear vision of the steps to be taken up to the vote and afterwards, whatever the result. Real partnerships&nbsp; require time and genuine effort - unlike shady decisions taken by one side <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-26248275">backed</a> by superior force that suited elites in both Kyiv and Simferopl that have dominated for a couple of decades. None of this is true in the case of Crimea. </p><p><strong>A route to conflict </strong></p><p>The problems with the referendum also reflect long-standing aspects of Ukraine's political culture, in which both Kyiv and Simferopol have played their part. Today, Kyiv cannot comply with the aforementioned standards of working through regional claims for greater self-rule; nor did it have them yesterday or the day before. Indeed, Kyiv and Crimea's elite were long bound by ties of mutual convenience.&nbsp; </p><p>But the foundation for this coexistence has proved shaky. The very idea that Crimea might "upgrade" its <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2014/03/ukraine-crimea-moves-towards-independence-2014311103927114933.html">status</a> causes severe discomfort to Kyiv and fierce opposition among Ukrainian nationalist circles. For their part, Crimean leaders have not sought to convince Kyiv (and western Ukraine) that their move would be beneficial to the entire country. </p><p>The Crimean champions of self-determination - some of them from the ranks of politically vocal but marginal Russian parties (often jokingly referred to as “professional Russians”) - are in a sealed space, a sort of scientific vacuum. This is largely because they have preferred to remain under the strict guardianship of politically committed and poorly educated Russian "missionaries". They have made no effort to enter into dialogue with a broader spectrum of Ukrainian, Russian and European politicians or experts who could have enriched the dialogue on possible new <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/03/03/crimean-autonomy-a-viable-alternative-to-war/">models</a> for Ukraine's political landscape and the role Crimea could play. In the end, the once popular idea that <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2014/03/profile-crimea-region-201431203814409638.html">Crimea</a> had a particular role as a regional Black Sea centre of sorts yielded to dependence on a narrow band of Russian advisors with limited ideas of acceptable provincial arrangements. This meant that all potential options of how ethnic Russians in Crimea could improve their future life boiled down to just one.</p><p>Against this background, there are four reasons to say that the referendum in Crimea contains the seeds of great danger to human security.&nbsp; </p><p>First, it is virtually impossible to imagine that Kyiv - both the current interim government, and any other power-centre born through normal democratic processes - will accept this referendum as a legal manifestation of the hopes and aspirations of Crimean citizens, or accede to its results. Moreover, as long as Ukraine faces an immediate threat of division as a result of Russia's direct or implicit <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/Backchannels/2014/0311/Russia-s-plans-for-Crimea-were-long-in-the-making-video">pressure</a>, Kyiv will regard any centrifugal initiatives as unlawful. If Ukrainian politics returns to a constitutional track before the disastrous scenario of Russian annexation arrives, the champions of the hasty referendum may lose any chance to join a political dialogue with Kiev that could endorse real autonomy and expand the rights of the Russian-speaking minority.</p><p>Second, the referendum may be boycotted by at least half of Crimea's voters, depriving it even of its immediate legitimacy. The fallout - in the context of overall Russian political control - could well include deeper splits and even outbursts of communal violence. </p><p>Third, the position and stance of Crimean Tatars are a crucial <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/03/01/who-are-the-crimean-tatars-and-why-are-they-important/">factor</a>. This people, having survived a cruel history of mass deportation from their historic homeland (in 1944) and then gradual <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeraworld/2012/05/2012517132318999379.html">resettlement</a> (from the late 1980s), the protection of their language, identity and political rights is the Crimean Tatars' acute concern. </p><p>Crimean Tatars have close historic ties to Russia and Russians. After all, they lived under the Russian empire and then the Soviet Union (whose Crimean Autonomous Republic belonged to Russia until 1954, when it was transferred to Ukraine). The very last session of the USSR's Supreme Soviet ruled that their deportation was a criminal act. A biopic about Ametkhan Sultan, the legendary Soviet Crimean Tatar combat-pilot, was recently nominated for a “Nika”, the prestigious Russian cinema award.</p><p>Most Crimean Tatars today see their <em>Majlis</em> (informal representative body) as speaking for their interests. They distrust Russian politicians who have brought to Crimea a conflict that, Crimean Tatars <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/crimean-tatars-fear-return-russian-rule-171103964.html">believe</a>, can only damage them. There seems very little chance of any agreement between the <em>Majlis</em> and the politicians who are promoting the referendum.</p><p>Ukraine's constitution refers to the indigenous character of the Crimean Tatars, but this stops short of legal recognition. The actions of Russian politicians in Crimea may push Kyiv to remedy this and acknowledge the <em>Majlis</em> as the official self-governing body of the Crimean Tatars. In that case, Crimea may well face a prospect with echoes of Quebec, of an appeal for self-determination within self-determination.</p><p>Fourth, the situation of Russians and Russian-speakers in Crimea&nbsp; - the very people in whose interests the vote is supposedly being held - does not justify the claim to self-determination according to the understanding of this principle by the international community. Among the prerequisites of self-determination is that a regional population is trapped within a state system which directly oppresses or imperils it (for example on account of its ethnicity), and denies it the chance of&nbsp; preserving and developing its self-identity.</p><p>Such a condition does not <a href="http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/top-5-myths-about-russias-invasion-of-crimea/495918.html">apply</a> to the Russians of Crimea. The Autonomous Republic of Crimea is not homogenous ethnically and confessionally, and its ethnic-political composition has changed since its autonomy was established in the early 1990s. Crimean Tatars now comprise 12% of Crimea’s population, and Ukrainians around 25%. A new generation born in the post-Soviet period have grown up to speak and feel Ukrainian (unlike their grandparents). Moreover, Russians are by no means unified in their <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/12/world/europe/ukraine-crisis/">desire</a> for secession from Ukraine. In these circumstances, any referendum will be very divisive.</p><p><strong>A unifying identity</strong></p><p>A hasty and manipulated referendum on altering Crimea's constitutional status will thus carry the region into even greater deadlock and crisis among Crimea's people (to say nothing of its international effects). There are two possible ways out. The first is for the local leadership to halt the process, take part in shaping the future of Ukraine with other Ukrainian power-centres, and commit itself to negotiating the future status of the region through dialogue. The second is to wait until Russia <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26547138">annexes</a> Crimea - after which all Crimeans can bid farewell to peace and quiet in their homeland, and look forward to a scenario closer to Northern Ireland's long war than to Quebec. </p><p>The main source of hope is that almost everyone in Crimea still seems determined to stay. They all think of themselves as Crimeans. The coming days will test the strength of this unifying identity.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.international-alert.org/">International Alert</a></p><p>Gwendolyn Sasse, <a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9781932650013"><em>The Crimea Question: Identity, Transition and Conflict</em></a> (Harvard University Press, 2007)</p><p>Alan W Fisher, <a href="http://www.hooverpress.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=1075"><em>The Crimean Tatars</em></a> (Hoover Institution Press, 1978)</p><p><a href="http://eng.globalaffairs.ru/"><em>Russia in Global Affairs</em></a></p><p><a href="http://www.kyivpost.com/"><em>Kyiv Post</em></a></p><p><a href="http://www.iccrimea.org/index.html">International Committee for Crimea</a></p><p>Andrew Wilson, <em><a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?isbn=9780300154764">The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation</a></em> (Yale University Press, 3rd edition, 2009)</p><p>Roger E Kanet &amp; Maria Raquel Freire, <span class="st"><a href="http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/roger+e-+kanet/maria+raquel+freire/competing+for+influence/9154902/"><em>Competing for Influence</em></a><em><a href="http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/roger+e-+kanet/maria+raquel+freire/competing+for+influence/9154902/">: the EU and Russia in post-Soviet Eurasia</a> </em>(Republic of Letters, 2012)</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Natalia Mirimanova is senior adviser at the Eurasia programme of <a href="http://www.international-alert.org/">International Alert</a>, and a conflict-resolution scholar and practitioner. She has worked since 1993 in the field of conflict research and resolution, organisational development and civil advocacy, under the aegis of the United Nations, the OSCE, Conciliation Resources, the Aga Khan Foundation, the National Democratic Institute and other bodies. She received her PhD from the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University. In recent years she has <a href="http://gpf-europe.com/participants/profile.php?id=1538">worked</a> on conflict prevention in Ukraine, and in particular in Crimea</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ukraine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Ukraine Conflict Democracy and government International politics democracy & power russia & eurasia europe Natalia Mirimanova Wed, 12 Mar 2014 15:20:54 +0000 Natalia Mirimanova 80229 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ukraine's crisis, the west's trap https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/ukraines-crisis-wests-trap <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The dangerous stand-off with Russia over Ukraine is also a display of the west's skewed perceptions and moral vanities.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Video of the confrontation went round the world in just a few hours and seemed to capture the huge risks of a crisis transiting to war. A group of unarmed Ukraine soldiers was filmed marching determinedly from one part of their base in <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26387353">Crimea</a> towards Russian troops, singing the national anthem on the way. The images were graphic, and became alarming when a few Russians fired warning-shots. After a brief <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/russian-soldiers-fire-warning-shots-as-ukrainian-troops-march-on-airfield/article17295548/">exchange</a>, the tense mood subsided. The Ukrainian soldiers failed to get through the Russian line, and retreated; the Russians were left looking aggressive, the message of Russian belligerence reinforced.</p><p>The whole <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26440668">scene</a> appeared a near-spontaneous effort by a contingent of courageous Ukrainian soldiers peacefully to confront armed intruders they saw as trespassing on their territory. Courageous they probably were, since the <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/2014/0304/Another-odd-day-in-Russia-occupied-Ukraine-video">episode</a> could so easily have ended in bloodshed, but spontaneous it most certainly wasn’t. As a few commentators have remarked, this was a carefully planned demonstration accompanied by many TV and press reporters to record every detail.</p><p>Precisely who had orchestrated it, had choreographed the event and ensured the worldwide coverage is far from clear; but that is just as much the case for so many <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-26248275">events</a> during the past two weeks in Ukraine.</p><p>It is a crisis that offers little to either the United States or Russia (see Anatol Lieven, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/anatol-lieven/why-obama-shouldn%E2%80%99t-fall-for-putin%E2%80%99s-ukrainian-folly">Why Obama shouldn't fall for Putin's Ukrainian folly</a>", 3 March 2014). Though if it was to descend into war, it could be disastrous - not just for the people who would be killed and injured, but for Russia, much of Europe and the United States. Vladimir Putin may <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2014/03/russian-defence-dominance-201434123623509686.html">appea</a>r strong, and has certainly consolidated his authority over the past decade (see Dmitry Travin, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-travin/What-is-putinism-three-ages-of-putinism-Surkov-Sovereign-Democracy-Volodin">The three ages of Putinism</a>", 4 March 2014);&nbsp; but any war would have a crippling impact on Russia's flawed <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/03/us-urkaine-crisis-russia-economy-analysi-idUSBREA221D020140303">economy</a>, as well as limiting its potential to employ "soft power".</p><p><strong>The echoes</strong></p><p>What is striking is how many elements of the confrontation are reminiscent of the cold war in the 1970s-80s, not least in the <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2014/03/nato-suspend-co-operation-with-russia-201435183125117503.html">attitudes</a> and atmosphere surrounding it. There is, for example, an almost unchallenged assumption in much of the western media reporting that Russia's current military power is little different to that of the Soviet Union of that era. This is <a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300181210">palpable</a> nonsense.&nbsp; </p><p>The <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/russia-and-the-georgia-war-the-great-power-trap">intervention</a> in Georgia in August 2008 is a case in point. That short war included Russia's extensive use of air-strikes. At the time, however, the Russian air-force was so <a href="http://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-339202307/russian-military-reform-in-the-aftermath-of-the-2008">underfunded</a> that most of the frontline pilots were drawn from flying-instructors and test-pilots (who were among the few people with sufficient flying honours to be more than half-competent).</p><p>This is not to say that <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/ukraine.htm">Ukraine</a> is in military terms better off; in many respects its smaller forces are even more under-equipped and lacking in training. That, though, is not the point. What is relevant is that so much of the western media approach remains fixated on the notion that opposition to Russia entails <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/2014/0305/Crisis-in-Ukraine-After-day-of-Paris-talks-a-dramatic-change-in-tone">standing</a> up to a superpower.</p><p>In turn this connects to the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/david-ignatius-the-cool-it-response-to-foreign-policy-rhetoric/2014/03/04/38cefa34-a3e6-11e3-a5fa-55f0c77bf39c_story.html">perception</a> in the United States that Obama is a weak president who needs to learn to "talk tough". The psychology is reminiscent of the <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/jimmycarter">Jimmy Carter</a> era (1976-80) where a powerful ideological drive on the Republican right pressed the aim of “making America strong again”. The crisis over Ukraine will reinforce existing Republican <a href="http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2014/02/26/will-the-2016-gop-nomination-turn-on-foreign-policy/">efforts </a>to launch a repeat before the mid-sessional elections in November 2014 and the presidential campaign in 2016.</p><p>Perhaps most remarkable of all, though, is the assumption that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/russian-invasion-of-crimea-will-create-nationalist-problem-in-ukraine-a-956614.html">damaging</a> its wider image across the world - and that by implication the west both is and is seen by the entire world community as the “good guys”. Putin may well have escalated the crisis; but surreptitious western <a href="http://themoscownews.com/international/20140305/192281617/EU-offers-Ukraine-15bln-in-aid-for-reform-program.html">involvement</a> in Ukraine's <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/post-yanukovych-ukraine-looks-to-avoid-past-pitfalls-a-956585.html">domestic</a> politics has been far more persistent than most people recognise, and this has contributed to the Russian president's <a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10212.html">determination</a> to safeguard Russia's “near abroad”.</p><p>Western misconceptions reached their height in the deep <a href="http://rt.com/news/kerry-russia-us-pretext-494/">irony</a> of secretary of state <a href="http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/kerry-honors-heroes-pledges-cash-scolds-putin-during-brief-kyiv-visit-338394.html">John Kerry</a> saying on 3 March (by all accounts with a straight face), ”You just don’t, in the 21st century, behave in 19th-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretexts.”</p><p><strong>The illusion</strong></p><p>Eleven years ago, the United States was about to <a href="http://www.versobooks.com/books/257-the-occupation">invade</a> Iraq, where it soon became <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/americas-wars-long-fallout">embroiled</a> in a bitter insurgency. George W Bush's administration urgently scanned the world in <a href="http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2003/03/20030327-10.html">search</a> of countries that might provide troops in Iraq and thereby free up American forces to operate in the areas of greatest insurgent risk. India's <a href="http://pmindia.nic.in/pmsofindia.php#">prime minister</a> Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who headed the nationalist BJP government, was willing to commit a reinforced division of more than 16,000 troops for just that role; but India's electorate proved anything but willing. Vajpayee’s party faced state elections later in 2003 and a general <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/indias-election-parties-and-people-amid-change">election</a> in spring 2004, and the prospect of a heavy popular backlash led him reluctantly to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/15/world/after-the-war-other-forces-india-decides-not-to-send-troops-to-iraq-now.html">decline</a> the US request, much to the Bush administration's surprise and dismay (see “<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict/article_1366.jsp">Far from home, alone</a>", 16 July 2003).</p><p>Bush’s <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/research/books/2003/americaunbound">advisers</a> had misjudged the wider mood, both in India and in other states across the globe (including friendly ones such as <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-iraqi_war/article_1231.jsp">Turkey</a>). John Kerry, Barack Obama and their advisers are doing the same now. This in no way excuses Putin and his policies, but it is a salutary reminder of the persistence of the idea of western superiority, itself stemming from deep-rooted moral righteousness. It is an idea all too rarely challenged, and the Ukraine crisis shows how important it is to do so. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/peace/" target="_blank"><span><span>Department of peace studies</span></span></a>, Bradford University</p> <p>Paul Rogers, <em><a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745320878&amp;">A War on Terror: Afghanistan and After</a></em>&nbsp;(Pluto Press,&nbsp;2004) </p><p><a href="http://www.janes.com/"><em>Jane's Intelligence Review</em></a></p><p> <a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/" target="_blank"><span><span>Oxford Research Group</span></span></a></p><p><em><a href="http://www.longwarjournal.org/" target="_blank"><span><span>Long War Journal</span></span></a></em></p><p>Paul Rogers, <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;" target="_blank"><em><span><span>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</span></span></em></a> (Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010)</p><p><a href="http://www.kyivpost.com/"><em>Kyiv Post</em></a></p><p><a href="http://themoscownews.com/"><em>Moscow News</em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Paul Rogers is professor in the <a href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/peace/">department of peace studies</a> at Bradford University, northern England. He is <strong>openDemocracy's</strong> international-security editor, and has been writing a weekly column on global security since 28 September 2001; he also writes a monthly briefing for the <a href="http://oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/">Oxford Research Group</a>. His books include <a href="http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0745641962,subjectCd-PO34,descCd-authorInfo.html"><em>Why We’re Losing the War on Terror</em> </a>(Polity, 2007), and <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;" target="_blank"><em>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</em> </a>(Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on twitter at: <span class="screen-name screen-name-ProfPRogers pill">@ProfPRogers</span></p> <p><span class="screen-name screen-name-ProfPRogers pill">A lecture by Paul Rogers&nbsp;on <a href="http://sustainablesecurity.org/what-sustainable-security">sustainable security</a>, delivered to the Quaker yearly <a href="http://www.quaker.org.uk/ym-updates">meeting</a> on 3 August 2011, provides an overview of the analysis that&nbsp;underpins his openDemocracy column. It is available in two parts and can be accessed from&nbsp;<a href="http://www.networkforpeace.org.uk/resources/qpsw/paul-rogers-lecture-sustainable-security">here</a></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/syria-next-blowback">Syria, the next blowback</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/al-qaida-nigeria-and-long-war">Al-Qaida, Nigeria, and a long war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/al-qaidas-idea-three-years-on">Al-Qaida&#039;s idea, three years on</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/iran-hopes-and-fears">Iran, hopes and fears</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/syria-vital-proposal">Syria, a vital proposal</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/climate-change-canary-to-ghost">Climate change: canary to ghost </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/climate-politics-melting-glacier">Climate politics: a melting glacier...</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/flooded-future-essex-to-world">A flooded future: Essex to the world</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/arctic-disconnect">The Arctic disconnect</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/climate-cliff-nuclear-echoes">The climate cliff: nuclear echoes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/paul-rogers/syria-peace-margin">Syria, the peace margin</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/al-qaidas-idea-three-years-on">Al-Qaida&#039;s idea, three years on</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/syria-and-libya-slow-meltdown">Syria and Libya, a slow meltdown</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/syria-at-geneva-ii-missing-proxy">Syria at Geneva II: the missing proxy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/egypt-and-al-qaida-prospect">Egypt and al-Qaida, the prospect</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-panoptic-shiver">America: the panoptic shiver</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/kenya-nigeria-syria-iraq-dynamics-of-war">Kenya-Nigeria, Syria-Iraq: dynamics of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/drone-warfare-cost-and-challenge">Drone warfare: cost and challenge</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ukraine </div> <div class="field-item even"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Russia Ukraine Conflict Democracy and government International politics Globalisation global security democracy & power russia & eurasia europe Paul Rogers Thu, 06 Mar 2014 05:19:40 +0000 Paul Rogers 80003 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Kleptocracy: final stage of Soviet-style socialism https://www.opendemocracy.net/krzysztof-bobinski/kleptocracy-final-stage-of-soviet-style-socialism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The tumult in Ukraine marks a wider crisis of the corrupt post-Soviet model. The impact will be felt most acutely in Russia itself, says Krzysztof Bobinski.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Viktor Yanukovych’s fall in Ukraine marks the beginning of the end for the post-Soviet mafia-style kleptocracies which emerged from the collapsing communist system after 1989. The rulers of these kleptocracies have shown that they are ready to murder and lie to <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/ukraine-yanukovych-press-conference/25280591.html">defend</a> a system which allowed them to build fabulous fortunes by stealing from their people.</p><p>The irony is that these kleptocracies mark the final stage of the Soviet path to communism. A very different outcome to the classless nirvana which Soviet ideologists long said would arrive once the new system was put into place. Indeed, their divagations gave rise to the Czech joke about the man who, when he heard at a party meeting that the final stage of communism was approaching, muttered: “I’m not worried, I have cancer”.</p><p>In light of unfolding events in Ukraine, the question now arises whether anyone in the Kremlin is thinking of how Russia’s own kleptocratic regime will fare once the population begins to question the right of their rulers to <a href="http://www.pecob.eu/corruption-ukraine">loot</a> their country in the way that <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-25182830">Viktor Yanukovych</a> and his cronies have been doing.</p><p>It may be that there is such a person. The <em>Financial Times</em> on 27 February <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f155610e-9f10-11e3-8663-00144feab7de.html">quotes</a> a contact with Kremlin officials as thinking: "Ukraine needs to find a new economic model which can help distribute wealth more evenly and put an end to endemic corruption". The comment might just as well have referred to Russia itself, which instead of criticising the new authorities in Kiev should be contemplating how to implement such a model at home.</p><p>None of the dreary pre-1989 Soviet ideologists could have imagined, even in their wildest dreams, that the finalite of the struggle to build socialism in their country and its constituent parts would be a kleptocracy - a political and social formation where the entire system is designed to uphold a mafia <a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/2012/04/25/mafia-states/ah37">capture</a> of the state.</p><p>That outcome was also unimaginable to people from the west who greeted the fall of the Soviet system after 1989 with enthusiasm and looked forward to happy times as the Soviet successor-states embraced the free market, the rule of law and a democratic regime. </p><p>As the stream of advisors from the west sought to acquaint the (by then) post-Soviet populations with the rules of the western system, the brightest among the Soviet natives - abetted it might be said by western financiers - moved swiftly to gain control over large chunks of the economy. They established a new system under which soon-to-be-fabulously-rich oligarchs ran their businesses under the watchful eye of their politicians, with whom they shared their ill-gotten gains.</p><p><strong>An end and a beginning</strong></p><p>Then, in 2009, came the European Union’s <a href="http://www.easternpartnership.org/content/eastern-partnership-glance">Eastern Partnership</a> programme. It was a quixotic project which sought once again to try and reform six of the post-Soviet states - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine - with the aim of re-establishing the free market, the rule of law and a democratic regime, and thus bringing these countries closer to the EU. But the EU officials failed to realise that a programme which <a href="http://www.eap-csf.eu/en/about-eap-csf/about-the-eastern-partnership/">emphasised</a> the rule of law and the empowerment of the people would also threaten the current rulers, by ending their ability to steal with impunity from the people.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>Under the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/idea/the-partnership-principle-europe-democracy-and-the-east">programme</a>, four countries negotiated association agreements with the EU - Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia and Moldova (Belarus is beyond the pale thanks to its bad civil-rights <a href="http://www.hrw.org/europecentral-asia/belarus">record</a>, and energy-rich Azerbaijan doesn’t <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/azerbaijan-baku-caviar-oil/25162410.html">need</a> this kind of relationship with the EU). Of the four, only Georgia and Moldova are moving ahead with implementation of the agreements. Armenia was scared off by Russia and Vladimir Putin bribed and cajoled Viktor Yanukovych&nbsp; to drop plans to sign the association agreement, which it is now clear that the Ukrainian president had no intention of implementing. However, Yanukovych&nbsp; went along with the programme, convinced he could get the EU to accept his failure to pursue reforms even as the EU <a href="http://eeas.europa.eu/eastern/index_en.htm">continued</a> to provide financial support for his country’s ailing economy.</p><p>This was happening as Yanukovych and his allies such as Viktor Pshonka, Ukraine’s (now ex-) prosecutor-general were amassing fortunes and building private <a href="http://www.euronews.com/2014/02/25/the-opulence-of-viktor-pshonka-ukraine-s-former-general-prosecutor-on-show/">mansions </a>in excruciating bad taste to show off&nbsp; their new-found wealth. It was Pshonka, according to documents <a href="http://www.bne.eu/story5807">published</a> by the internet publication <a href="http://www.bne.eu/"><em>Business New Europe</em></a>, who in the final days of the Yanukovych regime urged the ousted president to impose a thirty-day state of emergency and crush the Maidan revolt in Kiev. And it came as no surprise that the Ukrainian authorities turned to criminal thugs to terrorise the protesters, and that Yanukovych himself used mafia-style threats to keep his party’s deputies in the parliament in line when they threatened to desert.</p><p>The Russian people have been watching and reading this on the internet. The reason they have not already come out onto the streets in protest against their rulers is probably because they agree with President Putin who <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/ukraine-russia-too-important-to-lose/25276457.html">argues</a> that Ukraine must stay closer to Russia than the EU. But at the same time the dominant feeling throughout the Eastern Partnership region and Russia is anger at corruption, which is at the base of the system in these countries and the massive inequalities it engenders.</p><p>It is impossible to tell when Russians and the other countries in the region will rise up against their rulers but there is a more than even chance that they will rebel sooner or later. Such revolts are all the more likely if the new Ukrainian regime manages to bring in reforms which will indeed put the country on the path of the western-style normality which the people - and especially the younger generation - crave. </p><p>This is the challenge which Vladimir Putin faces. A Ukraine building a western-style market economy based on the rule of law poses a major threat to a system he is defending, where corruption is endemic and the path to inconceivable riches can be followed only by those who enjoy the rulers' favour. The last twenty-five years have seen the rule of the post-Soviet kleptocrats in a kind of "Indian summer" of the Soviet regime. That regime is now, at last, coming to an end.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.kyivpost.com/"><em>Kyiv Post</em></a></p><p><a href="http://www.bne.eu/"><em>Business New Europe</em></a></p><p>Andrew Wilson, "<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/why-a-new-ukraine-is-the-kremlins-worst-nightmare-9146751.html">Why a new Ukraine is the Kremlin's worst nightmare</a>" (<em>Independent</em>, 23 February 2014)</p><p><a href="http://eng.globalaffairs.ru/"><em>Russia in Global Affairs</em></a></p><p>Andrew Wilson, <em><a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?isbn=9780300154764">The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation</a></em> (Yale University Press, 3rd edition, 2009)</p><p><a href="http://www.eap-csf.eu/">Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum</a></p><p><a href="http://eeas.europa.eu/eastern/index_en.htm">EEAS - Eastern Partnership</a></p><p>Teresa Cierco, <a href="http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409457237"><em>The European Union Neighbourhood: Challenges and Opportunities</em></a> (Ashgate, 2013)</p><p>Roger E Kanet &amp; Maria Raquel Freire, <span class="st"><a href="http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/roger+e-+kanet/maria+raquel+freire/competing+for+influence/9154902/"><em>Competing for Influence</em></a><em><a href="http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/roger+e-+kanet/maria+raquel+freire/competing+for+influence/9154902/">: the EU and Russia in post-Soviet Eurasia</a> </em>(Republic of Letters, 2012)</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Krzysztof Bobinski is the president of <em>Unia &amp; Polska</em>, a pro-European think-tank in Warsaw. He was the Warsaw correspondent of the <em>Financial Times </em>(1976-2000) and later published <a href="http://www.unia-polska.pl/index.php?id=13"><em>Unia &amp; Polska </em>magazine</a>. He served as co-chair <span>of the </span><span><a href="http://www.eap-csf.eu/">Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum</a> in 2013</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/krzysztof-bobinski/ukraine-and-europe-russia-crack">Ukraine, and a Europe-Russia crack</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/carmen-claud%C3%ADn/why-does-putin-fear-maidan">Why does Putin fear Maidan? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrew-wilson/ukraine%E2%80%99s-2014-belated-1989-or-another-failed-2004">Ukraine’s 2014: a belated 1989 or another failed 2004?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/samuel-greene/why-ukraine-is-still-not-yet-russia">Why Ukraine is still not (yet) Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/david-marples/ukraine-view-from-west">Ukraine: the view from the west</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/krzysztof-bobinski/armenias-election-message">Armenia&#039;s election message</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/krzysztof-bobinski/europes-eastern-question">Europe&#039;s eastern question</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/idea/the-partnership-principle-europe-democracy-and-the-east">The partnership principle: Europe, democracy, and the east</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ukraine </div> <div class="field-item even"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> oD Russia Russia Ukraine Civil society Democracy and government International politics future of europe ukraine democracy & power russia & eurasia europe Krzysztof Bobinski Fri, 28 Feb 2014 16:14:37 +0000 Krzysztof Bobinski 79817 at https://www.opendemocracy.net An Armenian perspective on Khojali https://www.opendemocracy.net/gerard-libaridian/armenian-perspective-on-khojali <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Many civilians were killed in the war between the newly independent states of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the early 1990s. But the disputed period raises larger questions of common suffering, says Gerard Libaridian, adviser to Armenia's president at the time, who reflects on one incident that casts a long shadow.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>It is very difficult for an Armenian to write about Khojali.&nbsp; <br /><br />Khojali represents a case when Armenians have been accused of atrocities against others, in this case against Azeris. Armenians are not used to being victimisers; being the victim is more of a pattern for us.<br /><br />I do not know for sure and exactly what happened in Khojali on 25-26 February 1992, although I was, at the time part of the Armenian government as an adviser to the <a href="http://www.president.am/en/history/">president</a> of the republic. I know that Armenian authorities had neither authorised nor supported questionable activities. Still, Armenians do not speak about it and Azerbaijani sources are more interested in using Khojali for propaganda purposes than as a subject for serious study, thus they are unreliable. <br /><br />When in 1999 and 2000 I was interviewing Armenian and Azerbaijani officials in Baku and Yerevan for my next <a href="http://www.transactionpub.com/title/Modern-Armenia-978-1-4128-0648-0.html">book</a>, Azerbaijani officials dismissed <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1988/03/05/world/soviet-reports-deaths-of-31-in-azerbaijan-rioting.html">Sumgait </a>and other cases of Azerbaijani atrocities, while Armenians ignored Khojali. I do hope that someday scholars will find out what happened exactly with the cooperation of all parties concerned. <br /><br />Regardless, something unacceptable did happen, something that <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1992/03/03/world/massacre-by-armenians-being-reported.html">involved</a> killings and mutilation of Azeri civilians by Armenian forces in Karabakh. Armenians deny or explain it away just as Azerbaijanis do with what was done to Armenian civilians earlier in Sumgait, Baku and other Azerbaijani cities. It would have been very proper and useful if Azerbaijan had recognised the pogroms against Armenians in Sumgait and other Azerbaijani cities. But recognition by Armenians of the wrong done by Armenians should not depend on a corresponding recognition of Azerbaijani wrongs against Armenians. We know that the conflict is still unresolved and ostensibly under negotiation. But human <a href="http://www.hrw.org/reports/1992/09/01/bloodshed-caucasus">suffering</a> should not be a matter of haggling as if we were in a bazaar. This is a matter of what values we adopt for ourselves and what values we would want others to adopt regarding our own history.<br /><br />If Khojali can be explained as collateral damage, then anything done to civilians can be explained as collateral damage.&nbsp; Why should we expect others to recognise a big crime committed against Armenians if we will not recognise what is a smaller crime - but still a crime - we have committed against others?<br /><br />We need to separate the tragedy that we and others produced for civilians during that war - and for that matter in any past, present, or future war - from the larger responsibility for the militarisation of that <a href="http://nyupress.org/books/book-details.aspx?bookid=11375#.Uw_OxxBrtuA">conflict</a> in 1991 which clearly rests with Azerbaijani and Soviet governments.&nbsp; <br /><br />Karabakh Armenian forces undertook military operations in Khojali and elsewhere to ensure a secure neighbourhood for their own people against Azerbaijani air-force bombardments and shelling of civilian targets. Still, as I have asked publicly before, is the Azeri grandmother who had to leave her home holding the hand of her granddaughter any less of a grandmother and her granddaughter any less of a granddaughter because they were Azeris? How are these two civilians different from their Armenian counterparts who had to leave their villages and towns in Karabakh because of the Azerbaijani attempt earlier at ethnic cleansing around and in Karabakh? In fact, how were they different from my own grandmother’s story, who had to leave her town in the Ottoman empire holding her grandmother’s hand in 1915? On the human level, they are all grandmothers and <a href="http://www.transactionpub.com/title/The-Grandchildren-978-1-4128-5391-0.html">granddaughters</a> first.<br /><br />At the human, individual and family level it should not be the grand politics that matter. And the grand politics will remain immune to solutions until we recognise each other’s humanity. After all, what is or should be the purpose of politics and strategising and even of wars if not to establish a secure environment for one’s people; and no security is <a href="http://carnegie.ru/publications/?fa=42579">permanent </a>and real unless it is also so for one’s neighbours. We need to decide whether we want to live in a state of permanent war or threat of war, or find a way out. We cannot continue doing politics based on our worst fears while reinforcing the other’s worst fears about ourselves, and thus not giving peace a chance.<br /><br />We may feel good claiming our own humanity in our victimhood, but that cannot be morally valid until we recognise the humanity of our own victims, regardless of how and why we or they became victims. At the end, we have to decide whether it is sufficient to feel good claiming the higher moral ground while denying the humanity of others, or rather to come to terms with our own fallibility, even if on a smaller scale, and do good.<br /><br />Doing good means finding ways to make all grandmothers and granddaughters safe. Otherwise all our slogans, all the principles - legal, international, moral, historical, political and other - are meaningless at best and recipes for future disasters at worst.</p><p><em>This article was <a href="http://www.agos.com.tr/haber.php?seo=ermeniler-ve-azeriler-arasinda-dusmanlik-kader-degil&amp;haberid=6633">published</a> in Turkish in the Turkish-Armenian newspaper </em><a href="http://www.agos.com.tr/">Agos</a><em> (Istanbul), on 21 February 2014. This, by kind permission, is its first publication in Engliah</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.agos.com.tr/"><em>Agos</em></a></p> <div>Gerard Libaridian, <a href="http://www.transactionpub.com/title/Modern-Armenia-978-1-4128-0648-0.html"><em><span><span>Modern Armenia: People, Nation, State </span></span></em></a>(Transaction, 2004)</div> <div> <p>Thomas de Waal, <a href="http://nyupress.org/books/book-details.aspx?bookid=11375#.Uw_OxxBrtuA"><em><span><span>Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through Peace and War</span></span></em></a> (NYU Press, 2003; revised and updated edition, 2013)</p> <p><a href="http://www.panarmenian.net/"><span><span>Armenia news </span></span></a></p><p><a href="http://www.eap-csf.eu/en/countries/armenia/">Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum</a></p> <p>Armine Ishkanian, <a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415436014/"><em><span><span>Democracy Building and Civil Society in Post-Soviet Armenia</span></span></em></a> (Routledge, 2008)</p> <p><a href="http://www.rferl.org/section/Armenia/150.html"><span><span>RFE/RL - Armenia</span></span></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.armenianweekly.com/"><em><span><span>The Armenian Weekly</span></span></em></a></p><p>Razmik Panossian, <em><a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=373"><span><span>The Armenians: From Kings and Priests and to Merchants and Commissars</span></span></a></em> (C Hurst, 2006)</p> <p><a href="http://ec.europa.eu/world/enp/policy_en.htm"><span><span>European Neighbourhood Policy</span></span></a></p><p>Ayse Gul Altinay &amp; Fethiye Cetin,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ypc.am/bulletin/y/2011/m/05/ln/en"></a><a href="http://www.transactionpub.com/title/The-Grandchildren-978-1-4128-5391-0.html">The Grandchildren: The Hidden Legacy of 'Lost' Armenians in Turkey</a> (Transaction, 2014)</p></div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Gerard Libaridian is an Armenian scholar and writer. He was, for eleven years, Alex Manoogian<a href="http://www.lsa.umich.edu/history/people/faculty/libaridiangerard_ci"> Professor</a> of Modern Armenian History at the University of Michigan, until his retirement in 2012. In the first years of the Republic of Armenia's independence following the break-up of the Soviet Union, during the war with Azerbaijan over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, he was leading adviser to Armenia's president. Among his books is <a href="http://www.transactionpub.com/title/Modern-Armenia-978-1-4128-0648-0.html"><em><span><span>Modern Armenia: People, Nation, State </span></span></em></a>(Transaction, 2004). He has written a foreword to Ayse Gul Altinay &amp; Fethiye Cetin, <a href="http://www.transactionpub.com/title/The-Grandchildren-978-1-4128-5391-0.html">The Grandchildren: The Hidden Legacy of 'Lost' Armenians in Turkey</a> (Transaction, 2014)</p><p>This article was <a href="http://www.agos.com.tr/haber.php?seo=ermeniler-ve-azeriler-arasinda-dusmanlik-kader-degil&amp;haberid=6633">published</a> in Turkish in the Turkish-Armenian newspaper <a href="http://www.agos.com.tr/"><em>Agos</em></a> (Istanbul), on 21 February 2014. This, by kind permission, is its first publication in Engliah</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/the-caucasus-a-region-in-pieces">The Caucasus: a region in pieces</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-caucasus/nagorno_reality_4184.jsp">Nagorno-Karabakh: between vote and reality</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/armenia-s-mixed-messages">Armenia’s mixed messages</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-caucasus/nagorno_reality_4184.jsp">Nagorno-Karabakh: between vote and reality</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/krzysztof-bobinski/armenias-election-dark-deeds-slim-hopes">Armenia&#039;s election: dark deeds, slim hopes</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/armine-ishkanian/liberation-technology-dreams-politics-history">Liberation technology: dreams, politics, history </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/karabakh-peace-war-and-democracy">Karabakh: peace, war and democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/democracy_power/caucasus_fractures/armenia_election">Armenia’s election: the waiting game</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/democracy_power/caucasus/armenia_elections">Democracy contested: Armenia’s fifth presidential elections</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-protest/article_1626.jsp">Dynasty and democracy in Azerbaijan</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-europefuture/europe_turkey_armenia_3118.jsp">The water finds its crack: an Armenian in Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/krzysztof-bobinski/armenias-election-message">Armenia&#039;s election message</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/thomas-de-waal/azerbaijan-speed-without-system-1">Azerbaijan: speed without system</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/thomas-de-waal/azerbaijani-demolitions-update">Azerbaijani demolitions: an update</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/the-caucasus-effect-europe-unblocked">The Caucasus effect: Europe unblocked</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Armenia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Azerbaijan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Azerbaijan Armenia Conflict Democracy and government International politics caucasus: regional fractures democracy & power russia & eurasia europe Gerard Libaridian Fri, 28 Feb 2014 09:50:23 +0000 Gerard Libaridian 79767 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why does Putin fear Maidan? https://www.opendemocracy.net/carmen-claud%C3%ADn/why-does-putin-fear-maidan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The popular upheaval in Ukraine reveals how the Kremlin thinks, says Carmen Claudín.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Maidan marks a milestone for all of Europe. Although Yanukovych has fled and now denounces a <em>coup d’état</em>, the fact remains that a regime which lost legitimacy long ago has been ousted as a result of mass protest. The bloodshed has at last stopped but what comes next will certainly not be easy. First of all for Ukraine, a country teetering on the <a href="http://www.dw.de/volatile-ukraine-teeters-on-brink-of-bankruptcy/a-17451734">edge</a> of bankruptcy, with serious internal divisions, an opposition lacking cohesion and without strong leadership, not to mention a post-Soviet political culture which raises major obstacles to establishing rule of law. Then, for the European Union, which has now acquired towards Ukraine a responsibility that was certainly not on the agenda, for all Russia’s <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26327211">claims</a> to the contrary.<br /><br />For President Putin, the prospect of losing <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/ukraine.htm">Ukraine</a> for the Eurasian Union is a torpedo hit for his project of reconstructing a zone of structured influence in post-Soviet space. Worse still, a democratic Ukraine would be a <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/why-a-new-ukraine-is-the-kremlins-worst-nightmare-9146751.html">denial</a> of Putinism: it would demonstrate that there is no such thing as an East Slavic specialness that endows with legitimacy a model of democracy specific to Russia.<br /><br />Moscow has clung to two main lines of argument to <a href="http://www.dw.de/russian-media-paint-a-dark-picture-of-ukraine/a-17450111">denounce</a> the resistance in Ukraine. The first points at the external factor, namely foreign interference (European Union and the United States), meaning that present <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-26248275">events</a> could not be the expression of any autonomous will of the people because someone else must be pulling the strings. The second, taking advantage of the political heterogeneity of Maidan, focuses on the internal one: the mass-based movement is led by radical fascists who are knocking at our door. The great majority of the Russian media outlets, especially television, have picked up and broadcast this message with propagandistic <a href="http://rt.com/news/russia-ukraine-dictatorial-terror-486/">overtones</a> that bring back memories of Soviet times. It is now also being repeated by a very rattled Yanukovych.<br /><br />Putin is berating “westerners”, a timeworn practice in Moscow. He and his close circle have indeed kept a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/24/world/europe/deeply-bound-to-ukraine-putin-watches-and-waits-for-next-move.html">low</a> profile since January and they can assert, unlike senior US and EU officials, that they have not been frequenting Kiev. This simply overlooks the fact that as long as Yanukovych remained in power, they did not need to budge. A phone call was enough. They have indignantly denounced the threat of sanctions by Brussels and Washington as proof of their interference even though at the end of 2013 Russia - preventively - applied a long list of harsh trade sanctions in an <a href="Ukraine, and a Europe-Russia crack">attempt</a> to dissuade the Ukrainian government from signing the <a href="http://eeas.europa.eu/top_stories/2012/140912_ukraine_en.htm">EU-Ukraine Association Agreement</a>. Now, the share of Russian pressure in Yanukovych’s <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/2014/0222/In-Ukraine-abandoned-presidential-mansion-is-powerful-symbol-for-protesters-video">complete</a> capitulation is undoubtedly the result of Moscow’s preference for tactical retreat in order not to lose out with its <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/25/world/europe/kremlin-says-ukrainian-instability-threatens-russian-interests.html?_r=0">greater</a> objective.</p><p>Few people could have imagined that the degree of determination and capacity for sacrifice <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/on-the-maidan-the-birth-of-a-real-ukrainian-civil-society/article17025424/">shown</a> by the Ukrainian citizens who have come out into the streets would put the government up against the ropes and oblige it to accept all their conditions. Least of all the Kremlin because people simply do not enter into its notion of power. </p><p><em>This article was published in <a href="http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2014/02/22/actualidad/1393087210_764868.html">El País</a> on 22 February 2014. It is translated from Spanish by <a href="http://www.zero-books.net/authors/julie-wark">Julie Wark</a>, and republished by kind permission</em></p><p><em>The author and translator dedicate this text to Fred Halliday (1946-2010), <a href="http://www.cidob.org/en/news/cidob/fred_halliday_cosmopolitan_1946_2010">CIDOB affiliate</a> and openDemocracy <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/author/fred-halliday">columnist</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.cidob.org/en/cidob">CIDOB (<span class="st">Barcelona Centre for International Affairs)</span></a></p><p><a href="http://www.kyivpost.com/"><em>Kyiv Post</em></a></p><p>Andrew Wilson, "<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/why-a-new-ukraine-is-the-kremlins-worst-nightmare-9146751.html">Why a new Ukraine is the Kremlin's worst nightmare</a>" (<em>Independent</em>, 23 February 2014)</p><p><a href="http://eng.globalaffairs.ru/"><em>Russia in Global Affairs</em></a></p><p>Andrew Wilson, <em><a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?isbn=9780300154764">The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation</a></em> (Yale University Press, 3rd edition, 2009)</p><p><a href="http://www.eap-csf.eu/">Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum</a></p><p><a href="http://eeas.europa.eu/eastern/index_en.htm">EEAS - Eastern Partnership</a></p><p>Teresa Cierco, <a href="http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409457237"><em>The European Union Neighbourhood: Challenges and Opportunities</em></a> (Ashgate, 2013)</p><p>Roger E Kanet &amp; Maria Raquel Freire, <span class="st"><a href="http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/roger+e-+kanet/maria+raquel+freire/competing+for+influence/9154902/"><em>Competing for Influence</em></a><em><a href="http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/roger+e-+kanet/maria+raquel+freire/competing+for+influence/9154902/">: the EU and Russia in post-Soviet Eurasia</a> </em>(Republic of Letters, 2012)</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Carmen Claudín is <a href="http://www.cidob.org/en/cidob/organisation/cidob_experts/carmen_claudin">senior research fellow</a> at <a href="http://www.cidob.org/en/cidob">CIDOB</a>, the <span class="st">Barcelona Centre for International Affairs</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrew-wilson/ukraine%E2%80%99s-2014-belated-1989-or-another-failed-2004">Ukraine’s 2014: a belated 1989 or another failed 2004?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/krzysztof-bobinski/ukraine-and-europe-russia-crack">Ukraine, and a Europe-Russia crack</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/democracy_power/ukrainians_citizens">How Ukrainians became citizens</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/david-marples/ukraine-view-from-west">Ukraine: the view from the west</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ukraine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Ukraine Civil society Democracy and government International politics democracy & power russia & eurasia europe Carmen Claudín Mon, 24 Feb 2014 16:17:35 +0000 Carmen Claudín 79654 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sochi = Syria: boycott the Olympics https://www.opendemocracy.net/martin-shaw/sochi-syria-boycott-olympics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The crimes of Bashar al-Assad's regime and its support by Vladimir Putin demand an answer, says Martin Shaw.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The revelations of massive torture, starvation and executions by the regime of Bashar al-Assad should reawaken everyone to the <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/20/world/syria-torture-photos-amanpour/">horror</a> faced by the Syrian people. For three years now the world has watched helplessly as protests were repressed, neighbourhoods flattened, villagers massacred and populations gassed. As the armed opposition has become increasingly divided, some of it dominated by Islamists, Assad has regained some control and a gruesome war appears hopelessly stalemated. The United Nations has been incapable of meaningful intervention, Barack Obama’s plan for demonstrative missile-strikes following a chemical-weapons attack was shelved, and the Geneva <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24628442">talks</a> that opened on 22 January 2014 <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/terrorism-security/2014/0122/Dueling-opinions-aired-at-Syrian-peace-talks">appear</a> to be going nowhere. Above all, people around the world who have viewed Syria’s fate with horror have found no effective means of influencing the appalling conflict.<br /><br />Until now. At the very heart of Assad’s position lies the support of Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation. And in fifteen days’ time, on 7 February, the <a href="http://www.sochi2014.com/en">winter Olympics</a> begin at Sochi on the Black Sea. Putin has been ruthlessly clearing the decks of all possible causes of international embarrassment. The dissident magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been freed, as <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/2-pussy-riot-members-released-prison-104718932.html">have</a> Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina of Pussy Riot. Greenpeace's "Arctic 30" were <a href="http://news.discovery.com/earth/oceans/final-arctic-30-greenpeace-activist-leaves-russia-131229.htm">allowed </a>home. Putin even seems to have suggested, in a typically insulting <a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/1/19/putin-russia-mustcleanseitselfofgays.html">way</a>, that gays will be left alone during Olympics. He wants no politics spoiling his international media show.<br /><br /><strong>A simple message</strong><br /><br />There are many reasons to boycott Sochi and quite a few people are already doing so. But no reasons are as important as Syria. How can we, citizens of European and other countries, celebrate the agile bodies of Olympic athletes when so many Syrian bodies lie tortured, emaciated and mangled at the hands of Assad? Let us say to Putin that until he removes all political, military and economic <a href="http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/assad-and-putin-continue-to-play-the-west-for-fools/story-fnb64oi6-1226793231465#">support</a> for the Syrian regime, and until he calls for Assad’s resignation and his <a href="http://www.fletcherforum.org/2013/09/26/portilla2/">referral</a> to the <a href="http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/about%20the%20court/Pages/about%20the%20court.aspx">International Criminal Court</a>, we will have nothing to do with Russia’s Olympics.<br /><br />This is a unique opportunity for millions of people around the world to put Putin on the <a href="http://www.dw.de/moscow-digs-in-at-syria-peace-conference/a-17377360">spot</a> and force him to abandon Assad. This is a challenge for the athletes and sporting organisations, but not just for them. Spectators should not go to Sochi. Sports writers should not write about Sochi without writing about Syria. Publics should not just switch over their TVs but boycott public facilities showing Olympic events. On every day of the sixteen days of the Olympics, Russian embassies around the world should be surrounded by protests. People should demand that their governments <a href="http://metro.co.uk/2014/01/03/russias-winter-olympics-in-sochi-to-be-hit-by-protests-and-boycotts-over-anti-gay-laws-4247570/">boycott</a> the Olympics unless Putin changes his position.<br /><br />A simple message. Assad must go - to The Hague. The regime must fall. Putin must help make this happen. And soon. Only then can the UN, together with the various sections of the Syrian opposition and representatives of the different Syrian communities, begin to put in place a plan to <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/paul-rogers/syria-peace-margin">end</a> the war and enable the millions of <a href="http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php">refugees</a> to go home. We have a duty to do what we can, now, to stop this war, whatever the cost to sport.<br /><br />Putin = Assad. Sochi = Syria. Putin must tell Assad to go, and let the UN Security Council send his case to the International Criminal Court. No change on Syria, no winter Olympics.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://martinshaw.org/">Martin Shaw</a></p><div> <p>Martin Shaw, <a href="http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745631820"><em><span><span>What is Genocide?</span></span></em></a><em> </em>(Polity, 2007)</p></div> <div><a href="http://statecrime.org/%20"><span><span>Statecrime</span></span></a></div><div><a href="http://www.massviolence.org/"><span><span>Encyclopedia of Mass Violence </span></span></a></div> <p> <a href="http://www.yale.edu/gsp/"><span><span>Genocide Studies Program, Yale University </span></span></a></p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span>&nbsp;</span>Martin Shaw is research professor of international relations at the <em>Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals</em> (<a href="http://www.ibei.org/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=135&amp;Itemid=16&amp;lang=en">IBEI</a>) and the University of Sussex, and professorial fellow in international relations and human rights at the University of Roehampton. Among his books are <a href="http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745619064"><em>War and Genocide: Organised Killing in Modern Society</em></a> (Polity, 2003); <a href="http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745634104"><em>The New Western Way of War: Risk-Transfer War and its Crisis in Iraq</em></a> (Polity, 2005); and <a href="http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745631820"><em>What is Genocide? </em></a>(Polity, 2007). His website is <a href="http://martinshaw.org/about/">here</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-shaw/syria-and-egypt-genocidal-violence-western-response">Syria and Egypt: genocidal violence, western response</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/martin-shaw/paths-to-change-peaceful-vs-violent">Paths to change: peaceful vs violent</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-shaw/israel-and-hamas-momentum-of-war">Israel and Hamas: momentum of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/martin-shaw/united-states-and-atrocity-prevention">The United States and &quot;atrocity prevention&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-shaw/2012-next-upheaval">2012, the next upheaval </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/martin-shaw/holocaust-and-genocide-loose-talk-bad-action">The Holocaust and genocide: loose talk, bad action</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-shaw/libya-revolution-intervention-dynamic">Libya: the revolution-intervention dynamic</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/martin-shaw/international-justice-wild-west-vs-icc-coming-crisis">International justice, wild west vs ICC: a coming crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-shaw/libya-popular-revolt-military-intervention">Libya: popular revolt, military intervention </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/martin-shaw/iraq-war-and-wikileaks-real-story">Iraq, war and WikiLeaks: the real story</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-shaw/global-democratic-revolution-new-stage">The global democratic revolution: a new stage</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/martin-shaw/street-politics-violence-and-media">Street politics, violence, and media</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-shaw/politics-of-genocide-rwanda-and-dr-congo">The politics of genocide: Rwanda &amp; DR Congo</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/martin-shaw/holocaust-genocide-studies-and-modern-politics">The Holocaust, genocide studies, and politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-shaw/nigeria-and-politics-of-massacre">Nigeria and the politics of massacre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/martin-shaw/britain-and-genocide">Britain and genocide</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-shaw/sri-lanka-power-and-accountability">Sri Lanka: power and accountability</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/democratic-republic-of-the-congo/dr-congo-arc-of-war-map-of-responsibility-0">DR Congo: arc of war, map of responsibility</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Syria Russia Conflict Democracy and government International politics democracy & power russia & eurasia middle east europe Martin Shaw Wed, 22 Jan 2014 17:13:25 +0000 Martin Shaw 78637 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A tipping point for Mongolia's democracy? https://www.opendemocracy.net/alex-franquelli-luigi-creazzo/tipping-point-for-mongolias-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="western" style="margin-bottom: 0cm; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal;"> <span style="color: #000000;"><span style="font-family: Arial,sans-serif;"><span style="font-size: small;">Sandwiched between the giants of Russia and China, Mongolia is looking to develop its vast mineral wealth. How will this affect one of the most stable democracies in the region, and what will happen to the benefits of development? </span></span></span> </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>Pan-Africanism has acted as an umbrella containing diverse attempts to democratise the newly decolonised sub-Saharan continent, whether through the efforts of domestic forces or external aides, albeit with mixed results. Internal pressure groups, as well as transnational forces (especially international donors, banking institutions and multinationals) may help explain the various fates encountered by the single countries on their path to democratisation. Local variables, together with regional trends and international organisations can therefore provide a vaguely reliable model of behaviour for most of the developing countries. But, is democratisation achievable at all latitudes regardless of distinct regional peculiarities?</span></p> <p class="western"><span><span><span>Whatever the approach, what happens when a nation reaches an acceptable democratic standard (i.e. free multi-party elections, a network of independent media and so on) and its mineral resources provide enough material reasons for a relatively positive outlook? Once an initial consolidation of democratic and liberal values has taken place, what happens next? Is there a stage at which the development of a nation reaches a tipping point beyond which it cannot possibly go either in terms of economic development or political advancement? Mongolia represents a unique case in this context. </span></span></span> </p> <h2><span><span><span><strong>Mongolia: between two authoritarian states</strong></span></span></span></h2> <p class="western"><span><span><span>Landlocked between two champions of authoritarianism like Russia and China, this steppe territory with the Altai mountain range in the West and the Gobi desert in the south detached itself from the Soviet yoke and changed its Constitution in 1992, when it went from being a “people’s Republic” to a multiparty state. The transition was not without issues but, 20 years later, Mongolia still represents an anomaly to scholars of democratisation. The only nation of its region to be ranked as ‘Free’ in Freedom House’s “Freedom in the World 2013 Index”, Mongolia never fell in the autocratic trap the way Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan did and its geostrategic position between two nuclear powers has not posed a real threat in the last two decades. On the other hand, its vast territory (roughly the size of Western Europe) is home for less than three million inhabitants, half of which live in the capital Ulan Bator, while the other half continue living as steppe nomads.</span></span></span></p> <p class="western"><span><span><span>Mongolia is therefore&nbsp;</span></span></span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/alex-franquelli/mongolia-is-stability-new-challenge"><span><span><span>a stable democracy</span></span></span></a><span><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></span><em><span><span><span><span>despite</span></span></span></span></em><span><span><span>&nbsp;these preconditions, rather than&nbsp;</span></span></span><em><span><span><span><span>thanks</span></span></span></span></em><span><span><span>&nbsp;to them. But the big engine of economic development is undeniably its soil, with its extensive mineral deposits that have recently seen the government enter a partnership with mining giant Rio Tinto to exploit the mines in the south.</span></span></span></p> <p class="western"><span><span><span>In a country that in recent years has experienced a strong economic growth. The development of mining projects like Oyu Tolgoi (capable of extracting, at full capacity, 430,000 tons of copper and 425,000 ounces of gold per year on average, as well as silver and molybdenum, according to estimates made by Rio Tinto) in the south of the country, would lead one to think that the economic future of this country can be deemed if not bright, at least hopeful. The Mongolian government has structured the exploitation of this mine in such a way that it fits into the shareholding organisation of the joint venture, while still enjoying the tax revenues generated by this activity. Classically, one would be lead to think that the cash flows arising from Oyu Tolgoi would be reinvested in developing Mongolia's infrastructure in order to diversify production, thus making the country, over time, more resilient against price fluctuations of commodities that it produces. In addition, the inflow of Foreign Direct Investment and the reduction of unemployment suggest that the mine could contribute to the growth of per capita income, thus letting more complex indicators such as the United Nations’ Human Development Index (based on level of education, of income and life expectancy) predict, for Mongolia, a degree of development with no equal in the region.</span></span></span></p> <h2><span><span><span><strong>Is future development possible?</strong></span></span></span></h2> <p class="western"><span><span><span>So, will everything be OK? Not really. The development undertaken by the country may involve a number of risks, due to the typicality of the predominant economic sector, but more importantly to Mongolia's demographic and social features. Concerns about the development of the nation may in fact lie in its own peculiar topographic arrangement. Apart from the capital city, no other urban settlement exceeds the 90.000 settlers, with most city centres consisting of an average of 20.000 residents. This, combined with the large distances between one place and the next creates a layout that discourages investments in mobility or transport infrastructures. The question of whether or not Mongolia could further develop once the wealth generated by the big mining projects will start to flow, puzzles analysts and politicians alike.</span></span></span></p> <p class="western"><span><span><span>This derives in particular from the nature of Mongolia’s main source of income; minerals. The minerals market is, in fact, a sector prone to the volatility of international exchanges in which there is no chance of monopolisation and wherein the production of a country is fungible with the one of another. The investments and their performance in this area are heavily influenced by international prices which could change at any time, making a project less profitable, and at risk of closure. As in the case of Mongolia, a country with high growth, it is common to observe high inflation - a phenomenon that tends to increase the operating costs -, which affects the profitability of the investment, too.</span></span></span></p> <h2><span><span><span><strong>Strength in economic diversity</strong></span></span></span></h2> <p class="western"><span><span><span>In this context, manufacturing and agriculture, already weak and affected by the exodus of labour and capital towards the mining sector, cannot act as a shock absorber, and in the worst cases, the country is bound to experience problems of stagnation. To prevent this situation of ‘quasi-Dutch Disease’ happening, it is clear that the proceeds of the dominant sector should be immediately invested in the industrial diversification of the country. But, the peculiarity of Mongolian economy, one where for instance, even the traditional investment in transport infrastructure such as highways and railways are not a priority, due to low urban density demographic structure and social traditions, limit the value of this form of investment.</span></span></span></p> <p class="western"><span><span><span>Mongolia will therefore soon face a dilemma in terms of economic and social growth. How far can a country on the verge of an economic boom of epic proportions go to prevent its economy from being hijacked by not only external interests and trends, but also by the lack of an economic cycle that could harmoniously drive its growth? Also, is it possible to achieve an acceptable development standard in a country with almost no infrastructure and half its population leading a nomadic lifestyle that pre-dates Genghis Khan’s Mongol Empire? The answer, as always happens with Mongolia, can be found nowhere else than in Mongolia.</span></span></span></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Mongolia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> Mongolia Democracy and government Economics russia & eurasia asia & pacific Luigi Creazzo Alex Franquelli Wed, 09 Oct 2013 13:25:31 +0000 Alex Franquelli and Luigi Creazzo 75947 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sergey Dvortsevoy, Talented Ripple Master https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/zygmunt-dzieciolowski-sergey-dvortsevoy/sergey-dvortsevoy-talented-ripple-master <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/dv3.jpg" alt="" width="160" />Sergei Dvortsevoy’s films may have won plaudits internationally, but his uncompromising observational style and ethical stance keep them out of the multiplexes in Russia. Zygmunt Dzieciolowski interviewed this extraordinary director.&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>I met Sergei Dvortsevoy a few weeks ago at the Moscow International Film Festival, where he chaired the jury for the documentary section. For the filmmakers who had entered their work, he was the best possible choice - few contemporary film directors enjoy such respect and recognition in their professional community.&nbsp; Dvortsevoy is a unique filmmaker for whom film is both real art and a moral challenge. </em></p> <p><em class="image-caption"><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/d3.jpg" alt="" width="460" />Sergey Dvortsevoy's filmmaking style delivers a unique and sensitive grasp of the everyday. Photo: youtube.com<br /></em></p> <p><em>Dvortsevoy has not made many films during his fairly short (less than twenty years) career, but his work has won an impressive number of international awards. He is not a celebrity figure who enjoys publicity and all that film jazz; he is seldom interviewed by glossy magazines and is something of a rare jewel for everyone who still believes that cinema can tell us something important about life and the human condition. Dvortsevoy never makes easy choices: he often waits what seems like forever while events or situations develop, or for particular weather or light conditions, so as to show us a new and different face of reality. When it happens, he is there with his camera. </em></p> <p><em>Dvortsevoy&rsquo;s characters are simple people living difficult, marginalised lives, who are very unlikely to attract the attention of other filmmakers. Only Dvortsevoy, with his patience and understanding of his own mission, could spend months filming a white cat and his master, an old blind man who makes string bags which he then gives away to passers-by on the street (&lsquo;</em><em><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDSrEejy_eI">In the Dark&rsquo;</a></em><em>, 2004).&nbsp;Only Dvortsevoy with his ethical code could document the life of an isolated community of elderly pensioners living 80 kilometres outside St. Petersburg and their weekly ritual of pushing a freight wagon loaded with bread along a snow-covered abandoned railway track (&lsquo;</em><a href="http://www.kinoglaz.fr/u_fiche_film.php?num=3848"><em>Bread Day&rsquo;</em></a><em>, 1998). </em></p> <p><em>Born in 1962 in Soviet Kazakhstan, the young Dvortsevoy wanted to be a footballer. He began his adult life working as a radio engineer for the Aeroflot airline. The decision to study in Moscow at VGiK </em><em>[the All-Russian State Institute of Cinematography]</em><em> came later, and accidentally, when he came across a newspaper advert.&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>After several documentaries, Dvortsevoy&rsquo;s first feature film (&lsquo;</em><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZaecdNHLxs"><em>Tulpan</em></a><em>&rsquo; [Tulip] 2008), told the story of a young Kazakh man returning to the Hunger Steppe after his military service to become a shepherd.&nbsp; The critics warned that his old-fashioned, rigorously documentary style was out of tune with the genre, which demanded drama and narrative, but the film won top prize in Un Certain Regard at the 2008 Cannes Festival. </em></p> <p><em>Contemporary Russian film and culture would certainly much be the poorer without Sergei Dvortsevoy&rsquo;s films. </em></p> <p><strong>Zygmunt Dzieciolowski</strong></p> <p>On my way to meet you I saw a grandmother affectionately leaning over her grandchild in the street, singing a song and paying no attention to people going past. It struck me that this was a scene straight out of one of your films.</p> <p><strong>Sergei Dvortsevoi</strong></p> <p>Maybe&hellip;. My documentary films are observations on life. Obviously they are edited, but I love observing life more than anything, it&rsquo;s one of my pleasures. I&rsquo;ve no interest in filming people who want to show me what they&rsquo;re like&hellip;&nbsp; There&rsquo;s a word in Russian &ndash; pokazukha, all for show. That&rsquo;s not for me. I like it when I feel that it&rsquo;s not being done for the camera, or for someone, it&rsquo;s just real life, people&rsquo;s inner life.</p> <p><strong>ZDZ</strong></p> <p>We all have an inner life, though&hellip;</p> <p><strong>SD</strong></p> <p>Well yes. It&rsquo;s true that anyone, whether educated or stupid, has some sort of inner life, but film works with visible things. It&rsquo;s like when you throw a stone in the water and it makes ripples; or a fish swishes its tail and again you see the ripples. And maybe from these ripples you can tell what kind of fish lives there. It&rsquo;s a visible thing that film can capture. That&rsquo;s why I&rsquo;m always looking for these ripples, to work out what&rsquo;s beneath, what kind of fish it is&hellip;</p> <p><em class="pullquote-right">It&rsquo;s like when a fish swishes its tail and you see the ripples. And maybe from these ripples you can tell what kind of fish lives there. It&rsquo;s a visible thing that film can capture. That&rsquo;s why I&rsquo;m always looking for these ripples, to work out what&rsquo;s beneath, what kind of fish it is&hellip;</em></p> <p><strong>ZDZ</strong></p> <p>You&rsquo;re the sort of director who finds his own language to explore something that at first glance doesn&rsquo;t always seem interesting. Who would have thought that a film about a blind old man and his cat, could be so compelling? I get the feeling that subjects others find fascinating might well leave you cold. Are you interested, for example, in the personal drama of lonely Lyudmila Putina? Or the unexpected happiness of a certain well-known <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/vladimir-putin/10104682/Vladimir-Putin-marriage-break-up-was-the-Russian-gymnast-to-blame.html">gymnast</a>?</p> <p><strong>SD</strong></p> <p>These are very interesting subjects. And you probably could make a film or write a book around them. You have the wife of a man who&rsquo;s been handed extraordinary power &hellip; She finds a place for herself, or fails to; fits in to the presidential role, or doesn&rsquo;t &hellip; But it&rsquo;s very difficult to say much more about them because we don&rsquo;t fully know what&rsquo;s going on &hellip;</p> <p><strong>ZDZ</strong></p> <p>But I don&rsquo;t sense great enthusiasm for a &lsquo;presidential&rsquo; film&hellip;</p> <p><strong>SD</strong></p> <p>Well of course I&rsquo;m more interested in normal people. I love using the metro in Moscow. To me it&rsquo;s like an erupting volcano; you can watch this great flood of people flowing along a tunnel like lava. I always experience a very strong energy in the metro.</p> <p><strong>ZDZ</strong></p> <p>Let&rsquo;s get back to the characters in your films. Many directors wouldn&rsquo;t find them of any interest. But you don&rsquo;t just observe them, you elevate them.</p> <p><strong>SD</strong></p> <p>Maybe I do. I believe that these people are worthy of attention precisely because their lives are not on show, because their existence isn&rsquo;t predicated on being observed. They are normal people; they&rsquo;re often very surprised that I want to make a film about them. The old guy in &lsquo;In the Dark&rsquo;, for example, couldn&rsquo;t get his head round why we were filming a blind old man. I&rsquo;m sure I choose these themes because I&rsquo;m very interested in simple everyday life, whereas some directors make films because they don&rsquo;t want to observe it, they want to interpret it. Woody Allen, for example, says that he hates reality but it&rsquo;s still the best place to get a good steak. For him what&rsquo;s important is what&rsquo;s already happened &ndash; it allows him to interpret reality. And even if it isn&rsquo;t given extra colour it&rsquo;s still an artistic reality.</p> <p>With me it&rsquo;s completely different. I come from an ordinary Soviet family. I&rsquo;m Russian but I grew up in Kazakhstan, my parents were engineers. For a long time I lived in a rural area with shepherds; I know how ordinary people live. Then I worked for Aeroflot for nine years. When I talk of loving life it probably sounds pretentious but I hope it can be taken for what it is. People say, as a director you&rsquo;ve obviously got it all worked out, you&rsquo;re showing these people because you know that festivals dish out prizes for this sort of thing. They couldn&rsquo;t be more wrong. Spending six months with shepherds just to get a prize is totally pointless.</p><p><em class="pullquote-right">Spending six months with shepherds just to get a prize is totally pointless. </em></p> <p>You cannot make these films if you don&rsquo;t love it. On the one hand it&rsquo;s very tough, I&rsquo;m witnessing their private, everyday life, I&rsquo;m absorbed in it, I exploit it. But on the other hand I&rsquo;m making a film. For me it&rsquo;s a question of trying to find something unique in the everyday, and something ordinary in the unique. This, according to the Russian poet <a href="http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Mikhail+Svetlov">Mikhail Svetlov</a>, is where all genuine poetry comes from. And I think the same probably goes for film too.</p> <p><strong>ZDZ</strong></p> <p>Although in twenty years of working in cinema you haven&rsquo;t in fact made very many <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0245361/">films</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/aZaecdNHLxs" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p class="image-caption">Trailer for 'Tulpan', Winner of the Prix Un Certain Regard at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival</p> <p><strong>SD</strong></p> <p>I&rsquo;ve only made a film when I&rsquo;ve felt a connection, an interest&hellip; Producers, including Hollywood producers, have come to me and said, let&rsquo;s make this film&hellip; But I&rsquo;ve never worked to commission, to someone else&rsquo;s concept. Maybe if I needed to do it to survive, to feed my family, it would be different. But for now I&rsquo;m lucky enough to be able to choose. Not long ago I turned down a great project - decent money, well-known screenwriter, but deep down I felt that it wasn&rsquo;t for me&hellip;</p> <p><strong>ZDZ</strong></p> <p>I&rsquo;ve met directors for whom a day not shooting, or a wasted cut&hellip;</p> <p><strong>SD</strong></p> <p>Shooting is easy; the hardest thing is not shooting. When you want to shoot, you take a camera, you press a button&hellip; I believe that not pressing the camera button is more important than pressing it. Not wasting energy on what doesn&rsquo;t interest you or is bad, but only filming when you get this intense desire from within to do so. When people say, here&rsquo;s the camera, here&rsquo;s the money, let&rsquo;s get a move on, if we overrun the money will run out &ndash; that&rsquo;s not for me.</p> <p><strong>ZDZ</strong></p> <p>You say that you like observing ordinary life. What I&rsquo;m wondering is how have the views and customs of these ordinary people you focus on changed?</p> <p><strong>SD</strong></p> <p>I&rsquo;m very disappointed how quickly people embrace the bad rather than the good&hellip; I heard a story of how about three years ago some people got stuck in their cars on a mountain pass in Kazakhstan in winter. The locals were quick on the uptake and started selling bread a thousand times its usual price &ndash;five thousand instead of five. I think some people even died. Such a thing would never have happened in Kazakhstan before - Kazakhs have a whole cult of hospitality. But when I was filming &lsquo;Tulpan&rsquo; I noticed that unfettered capitalism changes people completely. Not just in Kazakhstan, in Russia it&rsquo;s the same. I remember as a child seeing my relations killing their chickens &ndash; they&rsquo;d cut the head off but the chicken went on staggering around the yard until it finally fell dead. The same thing is happening to people. They&rsquo;re running around headless, without any sense of direction.</p> <p><strong>ZDZ</strong></p> <p>Life in Moscow today seems even worse, everyone desperate for success, nobody much interested in the problems of the poor or weak.</p> <p><strong>SD</strong></p> <p>That&rsquo;s right. Moscow today is a city for successful people, for people who want to fight for success. And money is the main measure of success. There is such energy here, at every step of the way you&rsquo;re up against competition. But&nbsp; almost every Russian in the provinces, even while cursing Moscow, still dreams of coming here.</p> <p><strong>ZDZ</strong></p> <p>Are you also energised by Moscow?</p> <p><strong>SD</strong></p> <p>Of course. I have friends in Kazakhstan who also want to make good films, but they feel as though they&rsquo;re in a vacuum. An artist must have people around who are prepared to understand him. But it&rsquo;s not all positives in Moscow. The main problem for filmmakers today is that people have got used to a low level of visual culture. The norm now is a second-rate film with neither ideas nor a decent screenplay, and a bad director. Moscow&rsquo;s turned into the capital of sequels.</p> <p><em class="pullquote-right">I believe that not pressing the camera button is more important than pressing it. Not wasting energy on what doesn&rsquo;t interest you or is bad, but only filming when you get this intense desire from within to do so.</em></p> <p><strong>ZDZ</strong></p> <p>What&rsquo;s your take on contemporary politics? Do you follow it?</p> <p><strong>SD</strong></p> <p>In Russia you can&rsquo;t keep out of politics. I follow events, but I don&rsquo;t actively take part in very much. There are exceptions, of course, when someone needs your support. But what I&rsquo;ve realised is that if you&rsquo;re going to take film seriously, you have to spend a huge amount of time on it. I know a lot of good directors who have got into networking, acquiring new acquaintances, responsibilities and so on and they end up spending all their time on stuff unconnected with their profession. The result is fairly lamentable. So I&rsquo;m very careful about peripheral activities. I&rsquo;m always being asked to teach: at VGIK, and in other countries. But to do that, I&rsquo;d have to channel a lot of energy into a new sphere, and have much less for my real work.</p> <p><strong>ZDZ</strong></p> <p>Did you take part in the white-ribbon protests?</p> <p><strong>SD</strong></p> <p>I filmed them. Whether I&rsquo;ll use any of this material, we&rsquo;ll see&hellip;</p> <p><strong>ZDZ</strong></p> <p>There are almost always animals in your films. In &lsquo;Tulpan&rsquo; a sheep gives birth to a lamb, in the movie &lsquo;In the Dark&rsquo; we&rsquo;re observing a white cat. You film them with great affection. Where does this connection with animals come from?</p> <p><strong>SD</strong></p> <p>I love animals because they&rsquo;re part of life; their honesty means a lot to me. If I see an opportunity to film animals, I always do so, although it&rsquo;s incredibly difficult. The cat in &lsquo;In the Dark&rsquo; was a sly little devil, it always heard the camera. If you&rsquo;re expecting a cat to do one thing, it will inevitably do something else. But for me the main thing about animals is the chance they offer to convey a truth about life as I feel it. For me life is like a delicious champagne, which I drink and which I want to share with others. My films, of course, are not about a life that&rsquo;s easy, they&rsquo;re often hard, some are quite dark, but all the same&hellip;</p> <p><strong>ZDZ</strong></p> <p>People who watch your films are also struck by the wealth of sounds, a kind of polyphony &ndash; it&rsquo;s not music but it&rsquo;s an entire world of sound. You have an extraordinary ear, which makes me wonder, even, why you didn&rsquo;t become a musician or composer.</p> <p><strong>SD</strong></p> <p>It would be very interesting to study music, but I don&rsquo;t play an instrument. I love music and therefore only use it very sparingly in my films. I feel you should be very careful how you combine music with images. I sometimes think that cinema is by its nature closer to music than to literature or theatre&hellip;</p> <p><strong>ZDZ</strong></p> <p>Let&rsquo;s go back to your early work. Did you show, for instance, the film &lsquo;Bread Day&rsquo; in the village where it was shot? Do you know what happened to these people afterwards?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <iframe width="460" height="345" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/BfMfTDXHIFY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p class="image-caption">'Bread Day' depicts villagers pushing a bread wagon along the railway track</p> <p><strong>SD</strong></p> <p>No, of course I didn&rsquo;t show it. Anyway, I couldn&rsquo;t have. Six months after I shot the film the electric cabling in the village got stolen and they had no light, so life there became even harder than how I showed it in the film. What it&rsquo;s like now, I don&rsquo;t know, we&rsquo;ve lost touch. This kind of thing is always painful for me.</p> <p><strong>ZDZ</strong></p> <p>That&rsquo;s why I&rsquo;m asking; on screen it&rsquo;s clear how much you&rsquo;ve become part of this life&hellip;</p> <p><strong>SD</strong></p> <p>And that&rsquo;s why I stopped making documentary films. The subjects of the films became my friends, my family. But the way it works is that I make a film and then drop them - I have to move on to the next movie. That&rsquo;s the real moral question for you. It would be a lot easier if I filmed in a routine way &ndash; get the shot, it&rsquo;s a wrap, tomorrow we&rsquo;ll shoot this, then off. But my approach is different; I put my heart and soul into it all&hellip;</p> <p><strong>ZDZ</strong></p> <p>I&rsquo;d like to take a look at contemporary Russian cinema through your eyes.</p> <p><strong>SD</strong></p> <p>Russia is a country of contradictions. On the one hand you have Moscow turning into the sequel capital of the world, and finding people to work with is very difficult. I get approached by people wanting to work with me, we start talking and I realise they come from a different planet, or perhaps I&rsquo;m from a different planet. Things have changed so much that people just don&rsquo;t understand what I&rsquo;m talking about. I ask them if they know such and such a film, how it was made, and they haven&rsquo;t a clue. On the other hand you&rsquo;re always expecting the next great Russian artistic explosion. My sense is that we&rsquo;ll soon witness a powerful new wave, that some great pictures will be made. This is how it&rsquo;s often been in Russian literature and music. It will happen soon - I can feel it. I can see some serious guys, doing good things.</p> <p><em class="pullquote-right">The subjects of the films became my friends, my family. But the way it works is that I make a film and then I have to move on to the next one. That&rsquo;s the real moral question for you. It would be easier if I filmed in a routine way, &ndash; get the shot, it&rsquo;s a wrap, then off. But I put my heart and soul into it all&hellip;</em></p> <p><strong>ZDZ</strong></p> <p>What are you working on at the moment?</p> <p><strong>SD</strong></p> <p>It&rsquo;s a contemporary film about a girl in Kyrgyzstan who gives birth to a child, leaves him behind in the maternity hospital, and then starts looking for him again. Everything takes place over just the two or three weeks after the birth. The girl undergoes certain changes, mostly because of the strong hormonal reaction that women sometimes have after giving birth. In Moscow today there are a lot of migrant workers from Central Asia. I chose this subject not because I wanted to shock audiences; I just happened to meet a similar girl who had given birth and who then went back and forth to the maternity hospital to get a glimpse of her child.</p> <p>Kyrgyz women have abandoned around 250 children in Moscow&rsquo;s maternity hospitals, a huge number. The Kyrgyz, it seems, have fewer traditional cultural norms than is typical of Central Asia, where children are generally treated with great devotion, but they are Central Asian all the same. I realised there was the kernel of a film here. It&rsquo;s a joint production between Poland, Germany and Russia. I&rsquo;m working with the Polish camera operator Yolanta Dylewska, an incredible person, the soul of the film. She&rsquo;s not simply the eye behind the lens; she&rsquo;s my best friend, an extraordinary person and a great artist.</p> <p>My previous film &lsquo;Tulpan&rsquo; was about human conflict with the wilderness; leave someone in the steppe, see how he survives. The new film is essentially about a woman and the changes she goes through, both physical and psychological. My co-screenwriter is Gennady Ostrovsky, whom I met when we made &lsquo;Tulpan&rsquo;. But I now do most of it myself; I make a lot of changes, which seriously complicates things. I never ignore what&rsquo;s going on around the set, the actors &ndash; it all goes into the movie. It&rsquo;s an interesting approach but very difficult. You have to be constantly analysing, keeping your finger on the pulse; you can never relax. I never know how the film will turn out. I want to be constantly looking, I want the motivation to look. Jolia (Dylewska) says that I go out of my way to find difficulties. Maybe she&rsquo;s right; it&rsquo;s probably something that happens subconsciously. For me a film, a screenplay, is like a coiled spring. I have to keep it tightly wound so that the film gathers energy. And then the energy must be gradually released. The most important thing for me in cinema is energy. I&rsquo;m thinking all the time about how to inject it into the film.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>ZDZ</strong></p> <p>Without cinema, Sergei, life would be pretty difficult for you&hellip;?</p> <p><strong>SD</strong></p> <p>I&rsquo;m interested in the essence of cinema, the language of film, the energy of image. These are no doubt very subtle things, but for me they are essential. That&rsquo;s the way I am.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arts-institutions_government/russian_film_3726.jsp">Kinoeye: Russia&#039;s reviving film industry</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mumin-shakirov/russian-documentary-film-extinct-or-almost-interview-with-vitaly-mansky-par">Russian documentary film: extinct, or almost. Interview with Vitaly Mansky. Part two</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/olga-sherwood/russian-documentary-endangered-breed">The Russian documentary: an endangered breed </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/masha-karp/believing-in-tears-snapshot-of-new-russian-documentary-cinema">Believing in tears: a snapshot of new Russian documentary cinema</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Russia Culture russia & eurasia film Sergey Dvortsevoy Zygmunt Dzieciolowski Fri, 26 Jul 2013 17:59:29 +0000 Zygmunt Dzieciolowski and Sergey Dvortsevoy 74335 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Goodbye Lenin: Tajikistan's new historical narrative https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/eleanor-dalgleish/goodbye-lenin-tajikistans-new-historical-narrative <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/fronlinesjpe.jpg" alt="" width="160" />THE CEELBAS DEBATE // Since the collapse of the USSR the Tajik government has striven to establish a new historical narrative. Statues of Lenin may have disappeared, but for many the difficulties of post-Soviet life are a poor substitute for their previous life, says Eleanor Dalgleish </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On a Monday evening in May 2011, under cover of darkness and with protection from police barricades, builders dismantled the 22 metre-high Lenin statue in the centre of Khojand, Tajikistan&rsquo;s second city in the north of the country. The anecdote popular among locals is that Lenin welcomed the opportunity to relocate as, from his vantage point overlooking the city&rsquo;s football stadium, he had grown bored of watching the local football team continually lose. The tallest statue of Lenin in the world now stands on a piece of scrubland on the outskirts of town with a view of rundown Soviet-era tower blocks, dilapidated factories and cows grazing at the base of his crumbling plinth &ndash; not a spectacle that panders to the Communist ideology. </p> <p>Yet the local government, as part of a national directive, was interested in a different discourse which would emerge from the removal of Lenin and his replacement with the ninth century ruler of the <a href="http://www.khorasanzameen.net/history/samanid.html">Samanid dynasty</a> and the supposed father of the Tajik nation, Ismail Somoni. </p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Somoni.jpg" alt="Somoni" height="319" width="448" /></p><p class="image-caption">Monument to Ismail&nbsp; Somoni , ninth century ruler of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.khorasanzameen.net/history/samanid.html">Samanid dynasty</a>, in Tajikistan's second city and financial capital, Khojand.&nbsp; In an attempt to develop a new national identity, post- Soviet republics of Central Asia usually highlight symbols rooted in the distant past.&nbsp;</p><p>The even taller statue that stands on Lenin&rsquo;s former plinth represents the national narrative that the Tajikistani government is embracing in their attempt to engender a sense of national identity for the inhabitants of Tajikistan, a country fragmented along ethnic, regional and religious lines. (&lsquo;Tajikistani&rsquo; refers to the inhabitants of Tajikistan and &lsquo;Tajik&rsquo; to the ethnic group). </p><p><strong>Reviving the past</strong></p><p><strong>&nbsp;</strong>In 1991 frenzied crowds toppled the statue of Lenin in the capital, Dushanbe, but the outbreak of civil war in 1992 stalled progression. Peacekeeping and stabilisation took precedence over establishing legitimacy for the existence of a country, which the Soviets founded as a constituent republic in 1929 but had never existed as an independent state. Often the government of a country which has undergone social and political change chooses to rewrite the country&rsquo;s history, highlighting elements favourable to current and future policies. Yet, in contrast with other countries which found independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the five-year civil war and continued political instability meant that the building of a Tajikistani national narrative has been tentative. </p><blockquote><p><em>The rewriting of history and the construction of a historical myth assert Tajikistan&rsquo;s presence as an independent state with a unique history, rather than just a sovereignty of Soviet conception.</em> </p></blockquote> <p>In neighbouring Uzbekistan, soon after <em>perestroika,</em> President Islam Karimov ordered the removal of all the Lenin statues that littered the country&rsquo;s urban landscape. The purging of statues of the Soviet leader not only eliminated constant reminders of the Soviet past, but also facilitated the government&rsquo;s progression towards a new historical focus for the nation: the narrative associated with the Turco-Mongolian ruler <a href="http://asianhistory.about.com/od/profilesofasianleaders/p/TimurProf.htm">Amir Timur</a>. Born on Uzbekistani soil, the founder of the Timurid dynasty, Timur, conquered Persia, Northern India and Syria and established the now Uzbek city, Samarkand, as the capital of his empire.&nbsp; He is more commonly known in the West as Tamerlane or Tamburlaine, deriving from the Turkic epithet &lsquo;Timur the lame&rsquo;, referring to his battle injuries rather than his capabilities. Thus the monuments to the fourteenth-century conqueror, which sprung up across Uzbekistan in the early 1990s, were associated with an attempt to appropriate a history for the country which went back further than its inception as a Soviet republic in the 1920s. </p><p>As the nucleus of the national narrative, references to Somoni in Tajikistan are hard to avoid. Over the past fifteen years, it has been becoming more prominent in the public arena: for example you could fly to Somoni Peak (renamed from Communism Peak in 1998) on Somon Air (established in 2008) and pay with somoni (the currency replaced the ruble in 2000). The Tajikistani President, Emomaili Rakhmon commented &lsquo;we must regard the history of our nation like a pure and holy mirror.&rsquo; He is presumably eager to emulate the celebrated features of Somoni, who presided over a dynasty renowned for strong leadership, triumphs in the sciences and arts and for opening a new trade route which absorbed business from the Silk Route. The rewriting of history and the construction of a historical myth assert Tajikistan&rsquo;s presence as an independent state with a unique history, rather than just a sovereignty of Soviet conception. </p><p><strong>A narrative to unite</strong></p> <p>The recent removals of Soviet figurehead statues in Tajikistan and their replacement with Somoni and a select few other Persian cultural figures are the latest indication of government emphasis on eradicating the Soviet past by emphasising the narrative of Somoni. &nbsp;The renewed momentum came ahead of twentieth anniversary celebrations of Tajikistan&rsquo;s independence in 2011 and in anticipation of the presidential elections later this year.</p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Rakhmon_0.jpg" alt="Rakhmon" height="320" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The rulers of Central Asian post-Soviet states do not like constitutions which limit their time in power.&nbsp; Emomaili Rakhmon, president of Tajikistan, is no exception. He has been the head of state for more than 20 years (photo: Tajikistan president&rsquo;s press service).&nbsp;</p><p>In the build up to the 2006 elections, the government declared a year of celebrations to mark the fifteenth anniversary of independence and the 2700th anniversary of the Year of <a href="http://aryan-myth-and-metahistory.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/tajikistan-aryan-revival-and.html">Aryan Civilisation</a>.&nbsp; The joint celebrations of Tajikistan&rsquo;s independence and the ancient inhabitants of the same territory provided a rallying point to unite the population in celebration of its past in an election year. Rakhmon went on to receive 79% of votes. </p><p>In the current climate, analysts do not foresee Rakhmon losing power in the 2013 elections after twenty one years as head of state. Nonetheless the state is weary of the opposition voice, all too evident when at the end of 2012 a staggering 131 websites of Tajikistani, Russian and European origin were blocked in one fell swoop. Popular dissatisfaction with increasing poverty and poor social conditions make the state fearful of the risk of contagion from the surrounding region, namely from the north with Kyrgyzstan&rsquo;s 2005 Tulip Revolution, China&rsquo;s troubled Xinjiang province to the east, continuing instability to the south in Afghanistan and the international shake-up/stir following the Arab Spring. </p><p>The French political scientist, <a href="http://www.eui.eu/DepartmentsAndCentres/PoliticalAndSocialSciences/People/Professors/Roy.aspx">Olivier Roy</a>, demonstrates that Tajikistan is ostensibly divided according to ethnic and religious groups, yet the real allegiances of the people lie with local community networks. The influences of these regional sub-loyalties are less predictable and more difficult to manipulate from the national level.</p><blockquote><p><em>Since 11 September, the Tajik government has manipulated global anti-Islamic sentiment in order to further invalidate the Islamic voice in the eyes of the public</em></p></blockquote> <p>Moreover, the Tajikistani government attributes the increased internal instability to rifts in the Islamic population, more specifically to the growth of Islamic extremism. The country is predominately home to Sunni Muslims, President Rakhmon included in this number, with a growing Shi&rsquo;a Muslim population. The validity of the Islamic threat is questionable as little more than hysteria on the part of a government keen to delegitimise the nearest political rivals, even if they have little chance of achieving power. </p><p>The greatest threat to Rakhmon&rsquo;s leadership, however, is the Islamic Renaissance Party, which has been tarred with the label of extremism. Since 11 September, the Tajik government has manipulated global anti-Islamic sentiment in order to further invalidate the Islamic voice in the eyes of the public. 2011 witnessed Tajikistan&rsquo;s first suicide bombing which the government attributed to Muslim extremists. Predating Islamic presence in the region, the historical narrative of Somoni unsettles historical justification for the existence of Islam in Tajikistan.</p><p><strong>Grandfather Lenin and Mother Russia</strong></p><p>The Lenin in Khojand was taken down without prior public consultation, at night when few people were on the streets, and consequently only a few dozen people gathered to watch the dismantling process. The authorities had successfully avoided public demonstrations, which could have sparked greater unrest, considering the divergent population and extensive political, social and economic grievances in the region.&nbsp; </p><p>That said, the removal of the Lenin was not accepted as if the local authorities had just been rearranging the city&rsquo;s street furniture. In Parliament, the Communist Party accused the government of discrediting and snubbing a large chunk of the country&rsquo;s cultural history. Public reaction, however, has been mixed, as evidenced by the heated debates which ensued in the national blogosphere. On the one hand bloggers question why the country is being encouraged to erase from its memory a system which brought the country into existence and facilitated the social benefits and industrial investments associated with being a Soviet republic. On the other, people are only too pleased for the destruction of statues which act as reminders of the pain and suffering of life under rule from Moscow. Discusssing the statues, one well-known blogger claimed there was little difference between the brutalities inflicted by Lenin and Hitler. </p><p>By relocating the Lenin statues, as in Khojand, or removing them completely as in other parts of the country, the government is encouraging the population to partake in &lsquo;collective amnesia&rsquo;, a term coined by Benedict Anderson in his celebrated <a href="http://www.nationalismproject.org/what/anderson.htm">book</a> <em>Imagined Communities</em>. The Soviet narrative accounts for two-thirds of Tajikistan&rsquo;s existence and is still part of the population&rsquo;s active memory, so the success of collective forgetting this narrative is questionable. Somoni lacks relevance to the population that was educated under the Soviets: even if children are now growing up being taught about the country&rsquo;s early history in the classrooms, they play under the bust of Grandfather Lenin still found in most school grounds. </p><p>Despite the flaws inherent in being a Soviet republic, many in the country yearn for the financial and social advantages they remember under that system. After the dissolution of the USSR, independence brought Tajikistanis a decade wracked by civil war and social unrest, followed by an era of high unemployment, decreasing literacy levels and a ranking among the twenty countries worst hit by escalating food prices in 2011.</p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/New_Lenin.jpg" alt="New_Lenin" height="336" width="443" /></p><p class="image-caption">There was hardly a town or village in the old USSR without a monument to Vladimir Lenin. They have suffered different fates in various post-Soviet republics. Some used old Lenins for scrap metal, but in Khojand the monument was moved to a new, rather more decrepit location.&nbsp;</p><p>The Soviet myth is kept alive through the close connection Tajikistan has retained with its former hegemony. In the past five years the country has attracted interest from the world&rsquo;s major powers, highlighted by Hillary Clinton&rsquo;s 2011 announcement of the creation of a &lsquo;New Silk Road.&rsquo; Tajikistan is in the enviable position of being a participant in the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/li-lifan-raffaello-pantucci/decision-time-for-central-asia-russia-or-china">game of playing</a> Russia against China, as both countries are keen to establish Central Asian trading partners. Yet the country is not in a position to remove the crutch of Mother Russia, &nbsp;still considered as a vital source of finance by Tajikistanis. Tajikistan&rsquo;s high unemployment is most noticeable in Russia where there are currently 600,000 Tajikistani migrant workers &ndash; the unofficial figure is purported to be much higher. </p><p><strong>Back to the USSR</strong></p> <p>Eighteen months ago, the directions I had been given to my accommodation in the small northern city of Istaravshan related to the Lenin statue which stood on the corner of the main bazaar. Unfortunately for me, the locals I stopped for help could not recall the statue which had been removed little more than a week prior to my arrival. Yet, once I eventually found my destination, I ventured 50 metres inside the market to find the <em>USSR Caf&eacute;</em>. In a Tajikistani backwater, I discovered an establishment filled with Soviet kitsch, Stalin quotes and Lenin paraphernalia, catering not for tourists, but the local market-goers, daydreaming of a more prosperous era for the country as they eat their Central Asian staples of <em>plov</em> and <em>shashlik</em>. </p><p>The Tajikistani government is trying to institute a fabricated narrative of an ancient population to carpet over the issues which threaten national security. A referendum reverted the city of Leninabad to its pre-Soviet name, Khojand, in 1991; the region in which it is located was Leninabad until 2000 when it was renamed Sughd; the statue of the eponymous Soviet leader was surreptitiously removed in 2011; yet the main street continues to bear the name of the founder of the Soviet state. Even if the Somoni construct holds for the presidential elections later this year, the fractured population remembers the prosperous, stable and developing country characterised by Soviet rule. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Roy Olivier,&nbsp; Islam in Tajikistan, Open Society in Central Eurasia Occasional Paper Series, no. 1, July 1996. ... 128-161, </p> <p>Roy Olivier,&nbsp; Islam in Tajikistan. ...
www.hrw.org/ reports/ 1999/ uzbekistan/ uzbek-02.htm</p> <p>Roy Olivier, The New Central Asia: Geopolitics and the Birth of Nations, I.B. Tauris 2007</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/li-lifan-raffaello-pantucci/decision-time-for-central-asia-russia-or-china">Decision time for Central Asia: Russia or China? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/damira-umetbaeva/national-memory-in-kyrgyzstan-attitudes-to-soviet-past">National memory in Kyrgyzstan: attitudes to the Soviet past</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-protest/tajikistan_4078.jsp">Tajikistan&#039;s ghost democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/john-heathershaw-sophie-roche/conflict-in-tajikistan-%E2%80%93-not-really-about-radical-islam">Conflict in Tajikistan – not really about radical Islam</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/email/diary-of-an-uzbek-gastarbeiter">Diary of an Uzbek Gastarbeiter</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/madeleine-reeves/beyond-gastarbeiter-other-side-of-post-soviet-migration">Beyond the gastarbeiter: the other side of post-Soviet migration</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/central-asia-power-contest">Central Asia, the power-contest</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/email/kyrgyzstan-s-default-mode-is-russia">Kyrgyzstan&#039;s default mode is Russia</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tajikistan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Tajikistan Democracy and government russia & eurasia Eleanor Dalgleish The CEELBAS Debate History Wed, 03 Apr 2013 16:11:49 +0000 Eleanor Dalgleish 71924 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The tale of Boris and Vlad https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/zygmunt-dzieciolowski/tale-of-boris-and-vlad <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Berezovsky_Putin(2).jpg" alt="" width="160" />The death of Boris Berezovsky created a storm of speculation and reminiscences in the world press.&nbsp; But for most Russians Berezovsky was a forgotten figure, so why the explosion of interest there too? Because it’s a classic Russian fable, thinks Zygmunt Dzieciolowski&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>For anybody who followed Russian politics in the nineties this was an unforgettable story. By comparison with the Russian drama of that period, European politics were boring and predictable. Every four years voters in different countries would go to the polls to cast their&nbsp; votes, the new parliament would produce a new cabinet of ministers and members of parliament would scrap over the petty details of proposed new laws. How boring. Sometimes there were scandals, but in Europe even the scandals were lukewarm, lacking in passion and fire. &nbsp;A minister might have a lover, a former prostitute, or a high ranking dignitary would embezzle a large sum of public money; the media would disclose illegal lobbying by powerful international corporations. Perhaps now the European stage is also starting to see more real action, but in the nineties the real drama happened in Russia.</p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Berezovsky_secretary(2).jpg" alt="Berezovsky_secretary" width="400" height="286" /></p> <p class="image-caption">In 1996 President Yeltsin appointed Boris Berezovsky Deputy National Security Advisor, which was the peak of his career as a Russian government official.&nbsp; Berezovsky played a key role in the Chechen peace process: It was his efforts that led presidents Yelstin and Maskhadov to sign a peace agreement in May 1997 (photo: Sergei Guneev, RIA NOVOSTI Agency)</p><p>During the presidency of Boris Yeltsin, Russian politics were an incredible spectacle: passion, blood, evil manipulation and a dramatic struggle for survival between politicians, businessmen, the secret services and criminals. &nbsp;At stake were their lives, their power and their prosperity. This was no theatrical fiction or imitation - the blood, guns, piles of cash, limousines and women were all real.</p><blockquote><p>'In this cruel and colourful spectacle Boris Berezovsky played one of the main roles. In some episodes he was not only the main character, but writer and director too.'&nbsp;</p></blockquote><p>In this cruel and colourful spectacle Boris Berezovsky played one of the main roles. In some episodes he was not only the main character, but writer and director too. He was seen by many as a puppet-master able to pull the strings backstage or a kingmaker able to promote politicians to the highest posts in the country. His power was so overwhelming that, inevitably, his fall seemed the more pitiful. He lost his 2011-12 court <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/chelsea/9509960/Berezovsky-v-Abramovich-trial-Timeline.html">case</a> for financial compensation against rival oligarch Roman Abramovich, his regular predictions about the imminent collapse of the Putin regime seemed more and more like wishful thinking; &nbsp;gone was his magic wealth and power and his last wife sued him for huge amounts of money. He was finished as politician and businessman well ahead of the moment when his corpse was found in the bathroom of his bullet-proof Berkshire <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/boris-berezovsky-death-ascot--an-exclusive-suburb-which-houses-some-of-the-worlds-richest-people-8547585.html">mansion.</a> </p> <p><strong>The old &lsquo;heroes&rsquo; of the nineties</strong></p> <p>In an amazing twist of fate, the death of Berezovsky has produced more shock waves in Russian public opinion than any other similar event in the recent past. &nbsp;The nineties may have been a crucial period for politics in immediately post-Soviet Russia, but for most Russians they have now become distant history. After the very public <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11424183">sacking</a> in 2012 of Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov, there were no more VIPs from the nineties occupying top posts in Putin&rsquo;s Russia. </p> <p>But many of the heavyweights of the nineties were not destined to enjoy a peaceful retirement. Berezovsky is not the first one to die.&nbsp; </p> <p>In 2007 Russia bade farewell to president <strong>Boris Yeltsin</strong> and in 2010 to former prime Minister <strong>Viktor Chernomyrdin</strong>, the author of the legendary saying &lsquo;We <em>wanted the best</em>, but it turned out as it <em>always does&rsquo;</em>. </p> <p>Father of the Russian economic reform, finance minister <strong>Yegor Gaidar</strong> died in 2009 even though he was only 53 years old. </p> <p>General <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2002/apr/29/guardianobituaries.russia"><strong>Alexander Lebed</strong></a><strong>,</strong> considered a likely candidate for high office, died in a mysterious helicopter crash in 2002. &nbsp;</p> <p><a href="http://russiaprofile.org/bg_people/resources_whoiswho_alphabet_s_sobchak.html"><strong>Anatoly Sobchak</strong></a>, former mayor of St. Petersburg and maverick democratic politician died in 2000 in the city of Svetlogorsk campaigning for the election to the presidency of his former deputy Vladimir Putin. </p> <p><strong>Nikolai &nbsp;Aksyonenko</strong>, a former transport minister who had at one point seemed a likely winner in the battle for Yeltsin&rsquo;s succession, passed away in 2005. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Pavel Grachev</strong> was Yeltsin&rsquo;s defence minister who in 1993 sanctioned the use of tanks against the White House, where the Russian parliament was in revolt. He died in 2012. </p> <p>Another major figure of Russian business and political life, <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/2d0a8bca-7613-11e2-9891-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2OYJ1j1wz"><strong>Rem Vyakhirev</strong>,</a> former chairman of the energy giant Gazprom died in February 2013.&nbsp; </p> <p>The death of all these people did not go unnoticed: &nbsp;the media were full of the official obituaries, the funeral ceremonies were attended by high-ranking government representatives and in some cases an honorary guard fired a farewell salute. There were kind words, a bit of grief, and that was all.</p><blockquote><p>'The Russian media covered Berezovsky&rsquo;s lonely death as though he had been a celebrity pop star whose life had fascinated the public with tales of drug abuse and sex with children. '</p></blockquote> <p>Berezovsky&rsquo;s death is very different. The Russian media space has been flooded with comments and news, websites are recycling his old interviews, politicians and journalists sharing memories about their encounters with the late oligarch. The Russian media covered Berezovsky&rsquo;s lonely death as though he had been a celebrity pop star whose life had fascinated the public with tales of drug abuse and sex with children. &lsquo;Suicide? Impossible, I knew Berezovsky well, he would never do anything like that&rsquo; declared some of his old acquaintances. Others reported he was in deep depression and homesick for Russia. &lsquo;I do not rule out the possibility that he was killed by the Russian secret services&rsquo;, said runaway Russian businessman <a href="http://en.rian.ru/russia/20111210/169528128.html">Yevgeny Chichvarkin</a>. For Russian politics Berezovsky was finished a long time ago so why, wondered others, the sudden waves of interest in the figure of the late oligarch? </p> <p>The explosion of interest in Berezovsky indeed seems odd, because he was never a popular figure and Russians disliked him, regarding him as a wizard of backstage manipulation and an evil genius of political infighting who cared more for his private business than for the interests of the state. Andrei Piontkovsky, prominent political analyst, always called Berezovsky an &lsquo;odious figure&rsquo;. But he was a genius. In times of great political chaos, two Russian presidents can be said to owe (at least to some degree) their Kremlin throne to his incredible energy and PR skills. </p> <p><strong>Rise and fall</strong></p> <p>In 1996, appalled by the possibility of a communist comeback, he saw in the dramatically unpopular Boris Yeltsin his only hope of escaping political and personal catastrophe. A few years later Berezovsky felt threatened by <a href="http://www.guu.ru/info.php?id=1990">Yevgeny Primakov</a>, the prime minister appointed after the 1998 Russian financial meltdown, who was keen to put the oligarch behind bars. Berezovsky realized people were turning away from him.</p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Berezowski_Abramowicz.jpg" alt="Berezovsky_Abramovich" width="450" height="320" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich as Russian parliamentary deputies in 2000. It was Boris Berezovsky who introduced the much younger Roman Abramovich to the Russian political and business elite, but the disciple soon overtook his master. By staying loyal to the Kremlin he managed to preserve his huge fortune and political influence (photo: Vladimir Fedorenko, RIA NOVOSTI Agency)</p><p>But not the young head of the Federal Security Service, Vladimir Putin, who suddenly showed up at Berezovsky&rsquo;s wife&rsquo;s birthday with a bouquet of flowers. Berezovsky sensed an opportunity to return to the field and demonstrated incredible energy in making the case for Putin during the 1999 parliamentary election (the presidential election followed in 2000). Sergei Dorenko, at the time anchorman for the Berezovsky-controlled TV Channel 1, remembers a meeting where Berezovsky kept repeating with a charming smile (he was personally very charming), &lsquo;We will screw them, all of them.&rsquo; </p> <p>In the 1999 parliamentary election, the Kremlin supported the &lsquo;Unity&rsquo; (<em>Yedinstvo</em>) party against its main rival &lsquo;Fatherland&rsquo; (<em>Otechestvo</em>) party headed by Yevgeny Primakov and the Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov. &nbsp;Berezovsky very efficiently orchestrated a dirty anti-Primakov campaign in the media outlets under his control, <em>Yedinstvo</em> won and Vladimir Putin&rsquo;s subsequent victory in the 2000 presidential election was practically a done deal.</p><blockquote><p>'In times of great political chaos, two Russian presidents can be said to owe (at least to some degree) their Kremlin throne to his incredible energy and PR skills.'</p></blockquote> <p>Soon after Putin&rsquo;s inauguration Berezovsky&rsquo;s fortunes changed once more. He no longer had the president&rsquo;s ear because his prot&eacute;g&eacute;, the former KGB colonel, no longer felt indebted to him. Putin was president and wanted all the oligarchs to play by his new authoritarian rules. Unlike Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Berezovsky didn&rsquo;t want to end up in jail and fled to the West. He didn&rsquo;t realise that times had changed, as Roman Abramovich told me when I attended his <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-institutions_government/chukotka_3904.jsp">inauguration</a> as governor of Chukotka in 2001. &nbsp;</p> <p>As an active politician in the nineties Berezovsky hardly ever spoke about programmes, values or ideas. He was a gambler who was not afraid to bid high and who was always ready to outbid his opponents. Only in his London exile did he begin to speak about values: now, it appeared, he cared about Russia and its people. The Yeltsin era had helped some of them to understand that they should rely on themselves and not on the state. When I interviewed him in London&rsquo;s Savile Row, his first office in that city, he admitted that it was the Russian slave mentality which had made the manipulation possible and which lay at the root of Putin&rsquo;s power. &nbsp;In London Berezovsky became an out and out liberal: for him the state&rsquo;s only function was to help people to achieve their individual goals. </p> <p><strong>The myths</strong></p> <p>Unfortunately for Boris Berezovsky, Russia and its elite stopped listening to him. For Putin&rsquo;s regime he became the much-needed public enemy number 1, with the official media presenting him as a villain ready to execute people or design purely criminal schemes aimed at overthrowing the legitimate Russian government. The Kremlin PR machine was ready to blame him for any crime with the probable involvement of the Russian secret services, the murders of Politkovskaya and Litvinenko, for example. He was held responsible for all the so-called &lsquo;colour revolutions&rsquo; in the post-Soviet space. </p> <p>Russian historical mythology has other such examples: in the 16th century Prince Andrei <a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/325185/Andrey-Mikhaylovich-Prince-Kurbsky">Kurbsky</a>, exiled to Poland, was regarded as the main threat to the regime of Tsar Ivan the Terrible; Stalin&rsquo;s public enemy number 1 was Leon Trotsky, murdered in Mexico by Spanish communist Ramon Mercader. The death of Public Enemy Number One means that the Supreme Leader has won and that any resistance to him makes no sense. </p> <p>The story of Boris Berezovsky also fits well with another Russian myth, best <a href="http://russian-crafts.com/tales/golden-fish.html">presented</a> by Alexander Pushkin as the &ldquo;Tale of the Fisherman and the Golden Fish&rdquo;. </p> <p>A poor old fisherman catches a golden fish in the sea. She grants him a wish if only he will let her go.&nbsp; The fisherman&rsquo;s wife, keen to exploit this opportunity, wants more and more from the generous fish. But when she wants the fish to become her servant, the fish and the sea have had enough and take everything back: the fisherman and his wife end up as they started, with nothing. This is Berezovsky&rsquo;s story too: his appetite for power and influence knew no limit and he was punished accordingly. </p> <p>It is the myths of Public Enemy Number One and the Golden Fish that have triggered Russia&rsquo;s emotional reaction to the surprising news of Boris Berezovsky&rsquo;s death. </p><p> In addition to this, the Russian media has found the story of Berezovsky much more exciting than any novel by John le Carr&eacute; or Robert Ludlum.&nbsp; A true reality show, a political thriller full of suspense, dramatic turns of action and&hellip; a tragic end.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Top photo: Elena Pakhomenko, RIA NOVOSTI Agency, kremlin.ru website</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Paul Klebnikov, Godfather of the Kremlin: the Life and Times of Boris Berezovsky, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000, 352 pages</p> <p>David E. Hoffman, The Oligarchs: Wealth And Power In The New Russia, PublicAffairs; Revised Edition, 2011, 608 pages</p> <p>Chris Hutchins and Dominic Hutchins Midgely, Abramovich, Christopher Hutchins Ltd, 2011, 261 pages</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-fridman/fridman-how-i-became-oligarch">Fridman: How I became an oligarch</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/vladimir-gelman/russia%E2%80%99s-crony-capitalism-swing-of-pendulum">Russia’s crony capitalism: the swing of the pendulum</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrei-zaostrovtsev/privatisation-but-no-private-property">Privatisation, but no private property</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/bill-browder/turning-tables-on-russia%E2%80%99s-power-elite-%E2%80%94-story-behind-magnitsky-act">Turning the tables on Russia’s power elite — the story behind the Magnitsky Act</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-khodorkovsky/mikhail-khodorkovsky-final-trial-speech">Mikhail Khodorkovsky: final trial speech</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/jeremy-putley/rise-and-fall-of-mikhail-khodorkovsky">The rise and fall of Mikhail Khodorkovsky</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Russia russia & eurasia russia Zygmunt Dzieciolowski Politics Beyond propaganda History Mon, 25 Mar 2013 17:25:01 +0000 Zygmunt Dzieciolowski 71794 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Civil society in post-Soviet Europe: seven rules for donors https://www.opendemocracy.net/orysia-lutsevych/civil-society-in-post-soviet-europe-seven-rules-for-donors <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The west's contribution to building more democratic and open societies in the post-Soviet region leaves much scope for improvement. Orysia Lutsevych draws lessons and offers recommendations to both public and private donors. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The encouragement of a healthy civil society in post-communist Europe has been foremost among the objectives of many western donors since the early 1990s. The process was aided by the prospect of European Union membership, which became a reality for ten states in east-central Europe in the <a href="http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/enlargement/2004_and_2007_enlargement/index_en.htm">enlargements</a> of 2004 and 2007. But several other newly independent countries in the region - among them Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine - have found it much harder to establish either a firm timetable for EU accession or a functioning civil society.</p><p>The limitations of civil society in these countries are many-sided. The proportion of citizens participating in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is small, the segment of the population involved marginal, and the impact of these groups on public policy limited. They can be said to form a sort of "<a href="http://www.kyivpost.com/opinion/op-ed/can-civil-society-finish-democratic-revolution-319806.html">NGO-cracy</a>", where professional leaders of local NGOs use their access to domestic policy-makers and western donors to try to influence public policies, yet fail in these efforts because they are disconnected from the public at large.</p><p>The cost of marginality and disconnection is a pervasive lack of influence. NGOs remain largely unknown to the wider community of citizens, which contributes to a situation where public space for collective independent action is either shrinking or under stress. NGOs receive few donations from local businesses or individuals, while governments increasingly seek to manipulate the field of civil society by promoting and financing parallel structures around "phantom" NGOs and loyal groups. The result in that in many countries (especially Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan) democracy itself has deteriorated with at best only <a href="http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/what-are-they-thinking-study-youth-three-post-soviet-states">sporadic</a> opposition from citizens, and often none at all. </p><p>The remedy for such conditions is bound to be gradual, and will require careful analysis. A recent paper from Chatham House - <a href="http://www.chathamhouse.org/publications/papers/view/188407"><em>How to Finish a Revolution: Civil Society and Democracy in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine</em></a> (January 2013) -&nbsp; makes some proposals regarding western support to civil society in these three post-Soviet states. It argues that a new policy thrust is needed, whose heart is a stronger focus on society itself. If western encouragement of civil society is to be effective, the key aim should&nbsp; be to back moderate forces and expand the democratic responsibility of citizens.</p><p><strong>The pillars of change</strong></p><p>In practice, this translates into seven pillars of a new approach.</p><p>First, <em>make citizens "actors for change" not "consumers of democracy assistance"</em>. This would require making greater citizen participation in organisations a priority, and encouraging social trust, tolerance, openness and self-expression along the way. In order to expand the public space, donors should facilitate debate among citizens, helping to strengthen public opinion that could influence the state. By identifying true associations of citizens and supporting the independent action of these groups, donors could widen the spectrum of civil-society actors. They should verify that western-funded NGOs are&nbsp; genuinely rooted in society, and not simply "owned" by small groups of experts. In turn this means co-funding of projects from membership fees, and further practical steps such as open community meetings in public places, media outreach, and a share of volunteer work as a community contribution.</p><p>Second, <em>support grassroots and informal activism</em>. Today, citizens across the region are more susceptible to informal engagement than to formal membership in NGOs. These trends make it important to adopt a bottom-up approach and to reach out to activists on the ground. Donors could also consider supporting non-conventional actors beyond existing NGOs, such as youth groups, students’ associations and universities, grassroots citizens’ initiative <a href="http://www.civilsoc.org/info/pshndbk.htm">groups</a>, intellectual circles, schools and religious organisations that pursue charitable and community goals. It is time to invest in a new generation of leadership.</p><p>Third, <em>encourage a collaborative mindset and fund coalitions around real issues that matter to these societies</em>. Donors should&nbsp; link teams of activists, creating more national and international networks, and create projects to stimulate new patterns of social behaviour and provide a clear vision of an alternative future. Too often, an over-reliance on foreign funding has <a href="http://www.palgrave-journals.com/jird/journal/v7/n3/abs/1800024a.html">created</a> an over-competitive environment for NGOs, which soon become busy "selling" individual projects to donors rather than jointly advancing an outward-looking agenda of change. This would also entail donors widening the outlook beyond issues of human rights (as in the Helsinki <a href="http://www.museum.tv/debateweb/html/curriculum/history/helsinki.htm">agreement</a> of 1975) to&nbsp; encompasses economic justice, access to public services and consumer protection. Donors should conduct a reality-check to ensure that the work of civil society is not just "donor-driven" but resonates in the wider society. Experiments with local participatory budgeting, education reform, social enterprise, economic justice, neighbourhood associations and social enterprise could also lead to more sustainable social change.</p><p>Fourth, <em>finance models that can be scaled up and replicated</em>. Most NGOs today, particularly in social-service groups, redistribute western material aid rather than themselves create new products and innovative practices in the public space, which could have potential to influence the political space. Only a very few groups both conduct advocacy and deliver services, a combination that could yield a higher impact. Experimenting at a local level with new models of social transformation and scaling them up could be more effective than tackling root causes of an issue at the national level.&nbsp; </p><p>Fifth, <em>move from capacity building to high-impact NGOs</em>. From the donors' side, most efforts are at present centred on building the internal capacity of <a href="http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/CSO/0,,contentMDK:20714883~pagePK:220503~piPK:220476~theSitePK:228717,00.html">local</a> NGO groups, as this is considered a key indicator of the strength of civil society. There is no doubt that good NGO work is crucial, but in itself it is insufficient for high impact. This organisation-centred approach omits other crucial, external ingredients of an organisation's intelligence, such as the use of market forces, creating a broad network for change, sharing leadership, and changing actors around to become forces for change.</p><p>Sixth, <em>embrace social media tools for outreach and mobilisation</em>. Donors should employ the innovations of digital mobilising, crowdsourcing and online activism in the <a href="http://www.docstoc.com/docs/35387216/Post-Soviet-Civil-Society">region</a>. Despite growing home Internet use and fast expansion of social networks, many well-established local NGOs fail to use powerful means of communication such as Facebook to reach out to new, younger, active audiences. Thus, they fail to become either opinion-makers or <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/armine-ishkanian/liberation-technology-dreams-politics-history">pathways</a> through which information, pressure and accountability travel between citizens and the state.</p><p>Seventh, <em>civil-society and democracy assistance requires long-term commitment from donors</em>. It takes time for new behaviour to take root. Donors should avoid either over-extending themselves or becoming too narrow. They would do better to invest more long-term resources into just one or two priorities and gradualy expand the range of civic actors behind an agenda aimed at enabling active citizenship. This is the most promising route to the empowerment of civil society.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Orysia Lutsevych, <a href="http://www.chathamhouse.org/publications/papers/view/188407"><em>How to Finish a Revolution: Civil Society and Democracy in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine</em></a> (Chatham House, January 2013) </p> <p>Jacqueline Hale &amp; Viorel Ursu, <em><a href="http://www.soros.org/initiatives/brussels/articles_publications/publications/eed-paper-20110927"><span><span>How Could a European Endowment for Democracy Add Value?</span></span></a></em> (September 2011)</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/www.idea.int"><span><span>International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance</span></span></a> (International IDEA) </p> <p><a href="http://www.europesworld.org/"><em><span><span>Europe's World</span></span></em></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.europeanvoice.com/"><em><span><span>European Voice</span></span></em></a></p> <div><a href="http://www.euronews.net/"><em><span><span>Euronews</span></span></em></a></div> <div><a href="http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/how/finance/eidhr_en.htm">European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR</a>)</div> <div> <p>Keith Brown, <a href="http://www.watsoninstitute.org/pub_detail.cfm?id=891"><em><span><span>Evaluating Democracy Promotion in the Balkans: Ironies, Inconsistencies, and Unexamined Influences</span></span></em></a> (Watson Institute for International Studies, 2009) </p></div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Orysia Lutsevych is Robert Bosch Fellow for 2012 at <a href="http://www.chathamhouse.org/">Chatham House</a>, London</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/gevorg-ger-gabrielyan/europe%E2%80%99s-neglected-east-forging-partnership">Europe’s neglected east: forging partnership </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/jacqueline-hale/europe-and-democracy-promotion-making-good">Europe and democracy-promotion: making good </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Georgia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Moldova </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ukraine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Ukraine Moldova Georgia Civil society Democracy and government International politics democracy & power russia & eurasia europe Orysia Lutsevych Fri, 15 Mar 2013 01:32:50 +0000 Orysia Lutsevych 71592 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Decision time for Central Asia: Russia or China? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/li-lifan-raffaello-pantucci/decision-time-for-central-asia-russia-or-china <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/central asia.jpg" alt="" width="160" />Vladimir Putin’s attempts to draw the countries of central Asia into his fledgling Eurasian Union creates a dilemma for some of them: if they take up his offer, they might lose their valuable trading links with China. Li Lifan and Raffaello Pantucci discuss their options.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>If one turns enough of a blind eye, it is easy to be optimistic about Central Asia. Wily diplomats from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are masterfully playing off the great powers. Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are turning into hubs in their own right &ndash; and nobody can tell plucky Uzbekistan what to do. This is nobody&rsquo;s backyard, and attempts by neo-imperialists in Moscow, Washington and Beijing to play games in the region are only strengthening the hands of the Central Asian states themselves. This is a comforting picture &ndash; which is why Western policymakers love it &ndash; but it looks increasingly false as President Putin tightens the screws.</p> <h2>&nbsp;<strong>Why a Eurasian Union matters</strong></h2> <p>Russia&rsquo;s desire to strengthen its sphere of influence in Central Asia seems to be intensifying. The first sign came in October 2011 when Russia&rsquo;s &lsquo;national leader&rsquo; <a href="http://www.russianmission.eu/en/news/article-prime-minister-vladimir-putin-new-integration-project-eurasia-future-making-izvestia-3-">published</a> his vision for a Eurasian Union in the Gazprom-Media owned daily Izvestia. Here Putin stated that the Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan that would come into force on 1st January 2012 was just the beginning &ndash; and that it would expand &lsquo;by involving Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Then, we plan to go beyond that, and set ourselves the ambitious goal of a higher level of integration - a Eurasian Union.&rsquo;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p><em>Putin is said to dream of his third term being his &lsquo;geopolitical presidency,&rsquo; where he will make up for the lost ground and lack of achievement in foreign affairs that he views as his main failing.</em></p></blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Russian president is said to dream of his third term being his &lsquo;geopolitical presidency,&rsquo; where he will make up for the lost ground and lack of achievement in foreign affairs that he views as his main failing. The transformation of the fledgling <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Customs_Union_of_Belarus,_Kazakhstan_and_Russia">Customs Union</a> into the Eurasian Union of his dreams is the centrepiece of this strategy. Whilst Kazakhstan seems to have already decided that it wants to be a part of the Union (and its president, <a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/407143/Nursultan-Nazarbayev">Nursultan Nazarbayev</a> is credited for first raising the idea of a Customs Union back in 1995), for the Central Asian states of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan this is a potential turning point, forcing a decision on which partner they want to prioritize: China or Russia? &nbsp;</p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Eurasian_Union_2015.png" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p><span>The way Central Asian states will turn &mdash; to Russia's Eurasian Union or to China &mdash; is the test for influence in the region. Photo: (cc) Wikimedia/IvaNdimitry</span></p><p>Deciding whether to follow Putin into the Eurasian Union will be a decisive choice for both states in the year ahead, as it will force them to choose which they want to risk: the GDP they get from trade with China or the GDP generated from remittances from their nationals working in Russia. Putin has thrown down the gauntlet &ndash; they will now have to make up their minds whether their economic future is going to be closer to Moscow or Beijing. Their dichotomy is not quite as black and white as this, but this is nevertheless a power test. The choices they make will decide whether Russia or China has a stronger say in Central Asia. </p> <h2>Kyrgyzstan&rsquo;s dilemma </h2> <p>There is a simple reason why Putin&rsquo;s union matters so much to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan: trade with China. Unlike energy rich Kazakhstan, already in the Customs Union, Bishkek and Dushanbe&rsquo;s economies are dependent on business with Beijing. Kyrgyzstan&rsquo;s &lsquo;shuttle trade&rsquo; business with China, where small traders cross borders as &lsquo;tourists&rsquo; with their goods in suitcases in order to avoid Customs duties, accounts for roughly a third of its GDP. </p> <blockquote><p><em>Deciding whether to follow Putin into the Eurasian Union will force them to choose which they want to risk: the GDP they get from trade with China or the GDP generated from remittances by their nationals working in Russia.</em></p></blockquote> <p>On the other hand there is fear in Bishkek that if they do not deepen integration with Moscow then the millions of migrant workers it exports to Russia &ndash; whose remittances are also equivalent to a third of GDP &ndash; will be forced to carry international passports, or suffer far reduced quotas. The nightmare is that they will eventually end up barred from Moscow&rsquo;s labour market by a full visa regime &ndash; something nationalist elements in Russia, including charismatic opposition leader Alexey Navalny, have been calling for.</p> <p>These fears are well grounded: in December 2012 Putin <a href="http://en.rian.ru/russia/20121212/178106124.html">warned</a> that within three years he wanted to end the post-Soviet practice of migrants from the CIS being able to come to Russia on their internal passports, effectively ID cards &ndash; but Customs Union members will be exempted from the new requirement for international passports. Polls conducted by the independent <a href="http://www.levada.ru/eng/">Levada Centre</a> <a href="http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/window-on-eurasia-russians-increasingly.html">show</a> over 60% of Russians supporting tighter immigration controls.</p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Kyrgyz%20passport_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Visa-free admission to Russia and access to the Russian labour market may be soon be a thing of the past for Kyrgyz migrants. Photo: (cc) Shutterstock/FotograFFF</p><p>That free access to Russia can no longer be taken for granted is not lost on Kyrgyzstan. But at the same time the Kyrgyz elite fears that joining a Eurasian Union would mean effectively losing control over its border tariffs and regulations, and would destroy the rich network of new trade routes that are tying them into China, bringing them cheap goods and enabling a substantial re-export economy. These trade routes are economic lifelines for this fragile state &ndash; and for this network the Customs Union has all the potential to be a total disaster. As a former Kyrgyz cabinet minister put it to one of us in Bishkek last year, it would &lsquo;decimate&rsquo; the country&rsquo;s key markets in the south at Kara Suu and Osh. In his words, &lsquo;almost every&rsquo; small business in Kyrgyzstan is reliant on trade with China and any new tariffs or rules would entirely change the local economy.</p><blockquote><p><em>The Kyrgyz elite fears that joining a Eurasian Union would destroy the rich network of new trade routes that are tying them into China, bringing them cheap goods and enabling a substantial re-export economy.</em></p></blockquote><h2><span>China: vulnerability and official indifference</span></h2> <p>Chinese officials insist that the expansion of the Customs Union matters little to them. Ambassador to Bishkek Wang Kaiwen put it succinctly to reporters in late November when he <a href="http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:yYMof0jqVBkJ:eng.24kg.org/business/2012/11/30/26746.html+&amp;cd=1&amp;hl=en&amp;ct=clnk&amp;gl=uk&amp;lr=lang_en%7Clang_ru">said</a>: &lsquo;Kyrgyzstan&rsquo;s entry into this Customs Union will not affect trade relations with China.&rsquo; Kyrgyz-Chinese trade, he pointed out, oscillated somewhere between $5-$10 billion per annum, a figure that was &lsquo;a small problem&rsquo; dwarfed by China&rsquo;s overall foreign trade of $3 trillion. The question of whether &lsquo;to join or not&hellip;should be your decision.&rsquo;</p> <p>This blunt response hides a complex reality. It is true that in the grand scheme of things, China&rsquo;s trade with Kyrgyzstan is a drop in the ocean. The problem for China is that it is a drop that comes from one of the most troubled parts of one of its most restive provinces. China is not investing massively in its trade infrastructure with Central Asian countries for reasons of charity &ndash; but to stabilize its own restive Xinjiang Uygur province by turning it into a trade hub for this region. </p> <p>The Eurasian Union would have a potentially damaging effect on the substantial investment China has made on both sides of its border. The erection of a Russia controlled tariff barrier between China and Kyrgyzstan is likely to have a chilling effect on trade coming out of <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-19279258">Kashgar</a>, at a time when the Chinese government has invested a great deal into trying to develop the southern city. Capital of a part of Xinjiang that has faced heightened <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xinjiang">ethnic tensions</a> for decades, the government has spent a lot of money re-developing the old city and establishing a Special Economic Zone with the aim of turning it into a hub for Central Asian trade. </p> <p><em>China is not investing massively in its trade infrastructure with Central Asian countries for reasons of charity &ndash; but to stabilize its own restive Xinjiang Uygur province by turning it into a trade hub for this region. </em></p> <p>According to recent <a href="http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/751519.shtml">figures</a> China invested some $91.91 billion into infrastructure in its &lsquo;western provinces&rsquo; &ndash; an area that covers Tibet, Guizhou and Xinjiang. This is a focused strategy and Xinjiang sits in the middle of it. All of this will be threatened if suddenly traders no longer find it profitable to send their goods along the roads winding into the CIS from Kashgar. At the same time these traders&rsquo; choice of markets is surprisingly limited: without a route through Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan they would have to travel through the Khunjerab Pass to Pakistan. The problem there is the roads on the Pakistani side remain woefully under-built. Their only other possible border crossing would be with Afghanistan, which remains firmly closed at time of writing.</p><p>Seen from China, these are unanswered questions. When one of us asked a group of academics in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, what they thought of the Customs Union&rsquo;s impact to China, they shrugged and in vague terms said they were &lsquo;waiting to see&rsquo; if the Customs Union would actually come to pass across the whole region. In Shanghai and Beijing, everyone has stories of friends who have conducted surveys in the region that highlight its unpopularity. But this is largely behind closed doors. The official line is that espoused by Ambassador Wang, that &lsquo;Kyrgyzstan&rsquo;s entry into Customs Union will not affect trade relations with China.&rsquo; Nothing to see here, keep moving on&hellip; </p><h2><strong>A losing game for small states? &nbsp;</strong></h2> <p>This used to be the sort of situation where Central Asians were in their element, masters of the game of playing one partner off against another. Kyrgyzstan in particular has cannily used access to its Manas airbase to extract large chunks of money from both America and Russia. This time it seems as though Moscow is playing a much harder game, forcing Bishkek into a decision that could ruin one aspect of its economy or another. How this plays out may end up determining the shape of the Kyrgyz economy. For all the talk about China in Central Asia, Putin is still able to compete with Beijing &ndash; and the choices made in Bishkek and Dushanbe will make it clearer whether Moscow is still the world power it dreams of being.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/elkhan-nuriyev/putin%E2%80%99s-plan-for-russia%E2%80%99s-neighbours-eurasian-union">Putin’s plan for Russia’s neighbours - a Eurasian Union</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/john-besemeres/towards-greater-putistan">Towards a greater Putistan? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/email/kyrgyzstan-s-default-mode-is-russia">Kyrgyzstan&#039;s default mode is Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/nick-kochan/4-star-wars-flashpoint-in-kyrgyzstan">4-Star Wars: flashpoint in Kyrgyzstan </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/thomas-koenig/russia-and-china-aligned-after-all">Russia and China: aligned after all?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/pavel-salin/fable-of-eagle-dragon-and-bear">The fable of the eagle, the dragon and the bear</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/central-asia-power-contest">Central Asia, the power-contest</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/alexander-gabuyev/rise-and-fall-of-china-watching-in-russia">The rise and fall of China-watching in Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ben-judah/russia-china-relations-fantasies-and-reality">Russia-China relations: fantasies and reality </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Kyrgyzstan </div> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Russia Kyrgyzstan China International politics russia & eurasia china Eurasian Union Central Asia Raffaello Pantucci Li Lifan Russia-China Foreign Central Asia Thu, 24 Jan 2013 18:01:08 +0000 Li Lifan and Raffaello Pantucci 70557 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The fable of the eagle, the dragon and the bear https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/pavel-salin/fable-of-eagle-dragon-and-bear <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/thumb4.jpg" alt="" width="160" />How will Russia react to China’s rapid ascent as a global power? Will it develop its eastern links to spite the West, or join a USA led attempt to freeze Beijing out? Pavel Salin argues that this is a simplistic view of things and that Moscow may choose a third way. &nbsp;<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The situation in Syria has led to the widespread stereotypical perception in the West that Russia and China have formed a strategic alliance, ready to gang up against any initiative by Western countries anywhere on the globe. Moscow and Beijing (though the latter does not particularly advertise this) are certainly doing their best to block all Western efforts to depose the regime of&nbsp; Bashar Assad. At the World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai in December, Russia and China made a concerted effort to give national states sovereign control over the internet: this was greeted with <a href="http://en.rsf.org/internet-s-future-at-stake-at-itu-10-12-2012,43776.html">hostility</a> by other countries and triggered a wave of media concern about &lsquo;attacks on free speech&rsquo;. </p><p class="image-caption"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/WCIT%20Russia.jpg" alt="" width="460" />The WCIT conference in December saw Russia and China attempt to give national states more control over the intenet. Photo: (cc) Flickr/ITU </p> <p>If one ignores the deeply-entrenched parameters of development and change in Russo-Chinese relations, the events of the last few months do indeed create the impression that Moscow and Beijing have entered a strategic alliance. But the situation is by no means as simple as it appears.</p> <h2><strong>Russia and the West: a failed friendship</strong></h2> <p>Russia&rsquo;s brief love affair with the West, which coincided with Vladimir Putin&rsquo;s first presidential term, ended in deep disillusionment for its elites. In return for supporting the West&rsquo;s war on terrorism, they expected to be included in international decision-making processes and accepted as part of a global, which for the moment means Western, elite. Not only did this not happen, but the Russian government was faced with a string of &lsquo;coloured&rsquo; revolutions, organised with Western help, in countries which it was accustomed to see as its own exclusive sphere of influence &ndash; Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. </p> <p class="pullquote-right">On the one hand, both countries were dissatisfied with the &lsquo;old&rsquo; world order, based on Western domination. On the other, both their elites are supremely pragmatic, interested less in abstract concepts like &lsquo;national security&rsquo; than in business opportunities.</p> <p>All this crystallised into a terrible feeling of disillusionment about the prospect of Russo-Western cooperation, a clear sign of which was Vladimir Putin&rsquo;s celebrated &lsquo;<a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6350847.stm">Munich Speech</a>&rsquo; in February 2007. It was at this point that the Kremlin began an active search for an anti-Western ally to demonstrate that Europe was not the only game in town for Russia&rsquo;s elites. </p> <p>Then, China seemed like the obvious choice. On the one hand, both countries were dissatisfied with the &lsquo;old&rsquo; world order, based on the domination of the West, in which the concerted viewpoint of the USA and Europe was by definition the only possible position for &lsquo;world opinion&rsquo; as a whole. It is their antagonism to this clich&eacute; that Moscow and Beijing are demonstrating in the situation with Syria. On the other hand, the elites of both countries are supremely pragmatic, interested less in abstract concepts such as &lsquo;national security&rsquo; (a key concern of both the Americans and the Russians during the Cold War) than in business opportunities, which squeeze abstract values out on to the fringe. This pragmatism, shared by the elites in Russia and China, together with the possibility of mutual economic benefits, has created ideal conditions for the development of relations between the countries in the last few years. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>A prospect of mutual benefit &hellip;</strong></h2> <p>Beijing&rsquo;s interest in Russia is perfectly transparent and is focused on the secure supply of raw materials for its burgeoning economy. On the one hand, practically the entire world can be seen as a resource base for the Chinese economy: the Middle East, Africa, Australia and Latin America as well as Russia and Central Asia. Most of its trade routes, however, involve crossing the Pacific Ocean. In the case of any escalation of conflict with the USA, this would make them vulnerable to interception by the American navy, which is much more powerful than China&rsquo;s own<span>.</span> In the next decade the most China can hope for is to secure its interests along its coastline and adjacent waters, while the USA&rsquo;s aircraft carrier forces will continue to dominate in the Pacific, with the capability to disrupt China&rsquo;s main sea supply routes. </p> <p class="pullquote-right">Most of China&rsquo;s trade routes involve crossing the Pacific Ocean, which in the case of any escalation of conflict with the USA would make them vulnerable. So the Russian land route would appear to be the best bet.</p> <p>In this situation, Beijing&rsquo;s need for a secure and reliable supply line can be best met by two overland routes, through Russia and Central Asia. The latter route, however, enters China through the troubled <a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/546118/Xinjiang">Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region</a>, where the local population could cut it off, were relations with the West to deteriorate. So the Russian route would appear to be the best bet.</p> <p>Until recently, Moscow&rsquo;s interest in China also appeared quite straightforward. &nbsp;In the first place, it seemed a lot simpler to cooperate on energy matters with Beijing than with Europe, which exasperates Russia by trying to link cooperation to human rights and other ethical issues. The simple and pragmatic formula of &lsquo;resources for cash&rsquo; satisfied both sides. In the second, it suited Moscow to have a partner that was &lsquo;on the way up&rsquo;, that would share its desire to overturn the &lsquo;old&rsquo; world order. </p> <p>Another significant factor in the rapprochement of the two countries was an unspoken pact about the division of spheres of influence in the post-Soviet space, which Moscow considers her exclusive fiefdom. There is no question that the expansion of Western countries&rsquo; influence in the FSU (the clearest embodiment of which has been the &lsquo;coloured&rsquo; revolutions) was the main reason for the deterioration of relations between them and Russia in middle and late 00s. </p> <p class="pullquote-right">It seemed a lot simpler to cooperate on energy matters with Beijing than with Europe, which exasperated Russia by trying to link cooperation to human rights and other ethical issues. </p> <p>The fact is that both Russia and the West prefer a military-political presence in Central Asian states, which is why they are jostling for position there. An obvious example of this is the protracted indirect conflict between the USA and Russia over the establishment of <a href="http://www.globalresearch.ca/u-s-military-base-in-uzbekistan-to-counter-russia-in-central-asia/32484">military</a> <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1065905.html">bases</a> in the region: each side tries to persuade one or other country&rsquo;s government to accept their base and block the other side&rsquo;s attempts to do the same. China, on the other hand, has gone down the road of economic expansion in the region, which until recently allowed it to avoid any direct conflict with Russia there. </p><p class="image-caption"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/US%20military%20base%20Manas.jpg" alt="" width="460" />MIlitary-political presence in Central Asia has long been an arena for rivalry between Russia and USA. Photo: (cc) Shutterstock/Tracing Tea</p> <h2><strong>...brought its own disadvantages</strong></h2> <p>In the last couple of years, however, the Kremlin has begun to realise that what seemed definite pros were starting to turn into cons, and that China&rsquo;s growing economic dependence on Moscow will inevitably acquire a political dimension as well. The expectation, for instance, that &lsquo;the Chinese threat&rsquo; would scare Europe into making concessions has not been borne out by events. To take one example: Russia hoped its threat to redirect its gas sales towards the Chinese market would succeed in exempting its gas suppliers from the EU&rsquo;s <a href="http://euobserver.com/foreign/118606">&lsquo;Third Energy Package&rsquo;</a> regulations. These came into effect in March 2011 and seek to liberalise the European gas market by barring suppliers from controlling the transport infrastructure used to deliver their gas. The Chinese, however, have turned out to be completely inflexible business partners: no price for Russian gas has been agreed, despite many years of negotiations, and Europe has ceased to worry about the &lsquo;Chinese plan&rsquo; hinted at by Moscow.</p> <p class="pullquote-right">The &lsquo;China factor&rsquo; could scupper one of Vladimir Putin&rsquo;s pet projects, the Eurasian Union, designed to bolster Russia&rsquo;s position as a regional power. And now China is also showing an interest in the western fringe of the post-Soviet space, with active economic links between Beijing, Minsk and Kiev.</p> <p>The Russian elites are also increasingly worried about China&rsquo;s active economic expansion into the post-Soviet space, particularly Central Asia. There is a dawning awareness that the area&rsquo;s growing economic dependence on Beijing will turn into political dependence. This would be a particularly dangerous development given the generational change that will take place over the next decade in the political leadership of the two key countries of the region, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The &lsquo;China factor&rsquo; could scupper one of Vladimir Putin&rsquo;s pet projects, the Eurasian Union, designed to bolster Russia&rsquo;s position as a regional power. Yet another worry for the Kremlin is Chinese interest in a completely new area &ndash; the western fringe of the post-Soviet space. The last two years have seen the development of active economic links between Beijing, Minsk and Kiev (Russia has always seen European countries as its only rivals in Belarus and Ukraine). &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Beijing&rsquo;s growing global ambitions are another cause for concern. Experts close to the military and defence industrial complex are increasingly unhappy about China&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.ensec.org/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=351:chinas-quest-for-arctic-access-aamp-resources&amp;catid=123:content&amp;Itemid=389">interest</a> in the natural resources of the Arctic region. Its position on this issue is being discussed in the same terms as the supposed statement by Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State in Bill Clinton&rsquo;s administration, that Russia&rsquo;s natural resources should belong not only to Moscow, &lsquo;but to the whole world&rsquo;. </p><p class="image-caption"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Chinese%20expedition%20Arctic.jpg" alt="" width="460" />China is actively exploring Arctic's resources which causes worries internationally about its plans and ambitions. Photo: (cc) Wikimedia/Timo Palo</p> <h2><strong>A &lsquo;third way&rsquo; forward?</strong></h2> <p>Moscow&rsquo;s elites are in a difficult situation at the moment. On the one hand, they can&rsquo;t allow Russo-Chinese relations to just go on developing gradually as before, which is what Beijing is pushing for. That would mean Russia&rsquo;s economic dependence on Beijing becoming political dependence, which is unacceptable to Moscow. The Russian establishment loyally accepted economic dependence on China as the price to pay for Russia holding its own against Western domination.&nbsp; But now, as the centre of global influence moves inexorably towards the Asia-Pacific region, it risks ending up in the same marginal position as it did in Europe &ndash; excluded from the decision-making process in a new world order. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The position of the West, and especially of the USA, which has adopted a policy of &lsquo;<a href="http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2010/11/pers-n13.html">strategic encirclement&rsquo;</a> of China, just as it did in the past with the USSR, is equally unacceptable to Russia. <a href="http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/136754/zbigniew-brzezinski/balancing-the-east-upgrading-the-west">Appeals</a> from Western intellectuals like Zbigniew Brzezinski to join the West in the anti-China &lsquo;trench&rsquo; have not met with any positive response. Moscow&rsquo;s ambitions are set rather higher than a foot soldier role in a war where it is excluded from key decision making. And developments such as the passing of the Magnitsky Law, which has raised doubts about the security of the elites&rsquo; assets in Europe, have not helped bring them over to the West&rsquo;s position, forcing them to look eastwards instead. &nbsp;</p> <p>At present Russia and its elites are standing at a strategic crossroads, and the development of the country over the next fifty years will depend on the direction they choose. On the one hand, Moscow will no longer be satisfied by the role it occupied in Beijing&rsquo;s game plan two or three years ago. On the other, the West&rsquo;s suggestion that Russia join the USA led anti-China alliance is no more promising. In this situation, with a new US-China Cold War on the cards, the idea is growing in Russian intellectual circles that Moscow could find a new role, as a &lsquo;third force&rsquo; at the head of a new Non-Aligned Movement of countries who have no desire to be pawns in someone else&rsquo;s game. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <div> <p>ADDITIONAL READING </p> <p>FICTION</p> <p>Vladimir Sorokin - Day of the Oprichnik </p> <p><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Day-Oprichnik-Novel-Vladimir-Sorokin/dp/0374134758">http://www.amazon.com/Day-Oprichnik-Novel-Vladimir-Sorokin/dp/0374134758</a></p> <p>MIGRATION</p> <p>Harley Balzer and Maria Repnikova - Chinese Migration to Russia Missed Oppurtunities </p> <p><a href="http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/No3_ChineseMigtoRussia.pdf">http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/No3_ChineseMigtoRussia.pdf</a></p> <p>CHINESE VIEW </p> <p>Bobo Lo - How The Chinese See Russia </p> <p><a href="http://www.ifri.org/?page=contribution-detail&amp;id=6379">http://www.ifri.org/?page=contribution-detail&amp;id=6379</a></p> <p>IMPACT ON THE WEST</p> <p>Anatol Lieven - US-Russia Relations and the Rise of China </p> <p><a href="http://newamerica.net/publications/policy/us_russian_relations_and_the_rise_of_china">http://newamerica.net/publications/policy/us_russian_relations_and_the_rise_of_china</a></p> <p>RUSSIAN FEARS </p> <p>Sergey Karaganov - Russia's Asian Strategy </p> <p><a href="http://eng.globalaffairs.ru/pubcol/Russias-Asian-Strategy-15254">http://eng.globalaffairs.ru/pubcol/Russias-Asian-Strategy-15254</a></p> <p>RUSSIAN DEBATE</p> <p>Dmitry Trenin and Vitaly Tsygichko - What is China to Russia: Comrade or Master?</p> <p><a href="http://pircenter.org/media/content/files/0/13413061091.pdf">http://pircenter.org/media/content/files/0/13413061091.pdf</a></p> <p>RUSSIAN OPTIMISM</p> <p>Dmitry Trenin - True Partners? How Russia And China See Each Other </p> <p><a href="http://carnegie.ru/publications/?fa=47410">http://carnegie.ru/publications/?fa=47410</a></p> <p>EUROPEAN ANALYSIS</p> <p>Ben Judah, Jana Kobzova and Nicu Popescu - Dealing With A Post-BRIC Russia </p> <p><a href="http://www.ecfr.eu/page/-/ECFR44_RUSSIA_REPORT_AW.pdf">http://www.ecfr.eu/page/-/ECFR44_RUSSIA_REPORT_AW.pdf</a></p> <p>CHINESE DEBATES </p> <p>Mark Leonard (Ed.) - China 3.0</p> <p><a href="http://ecfr.eu/page/-/ECFR66_CHINA_30_final.pdf">http://ecfr.eu/page/-/ECFR66_CHINA_30_final.pdf</a></p></div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/china-next-military-rival">China: the next military rival</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/%C3%B8yvind-paasche/new-arctic-trade-science-politics">The new Arctic: trade, science, politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/derek-gregory/supplying-war-in-afghanistan-frictions-of-distance">Supplying war in Afghanistan: the frictions of distance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/central-asia-power-contest">Central Asia, the power-contest</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/irina-borogan/runet-russia-on-chinese-road">RuNet: Russia on the Chinese road?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Russia International politics russia & eurasia russia north america china & the world china Central Asia Pavel Salin Russia-China Politics Foreign Central Asia Wed, 23 Jan 2013 14:34:35 +0000 Pavel Salin 70499 at https://www.opendemocracy.net An investment wonderland? Reality checks https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/pavel-usanov/investment-wonderland-reality-checks <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/newecon_2.jpg" alt="" width="160" />Since the collapse of the USSR investors have flocked to Russia, tempted by the high rates of return and the Alice in Wonderland atmosphere in Moscow, where everything seems possible. But the Russian business community has rather less faith in the future promised them by their government, says Pavel Usanov</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The aphorism ‘Russia will never be as weak – or as strong – as she appears’ has been attributed to Talleyrand.</p> <p>In the 90s the state of Russia’s economy seemed very woeful indeed, especially in the light of what was happening at the time in the economies of Europe and the USA. Now Russia’s reinstated imperial ambitions and the rapid growth of her economy look like a breakthrough to scaling new heights, especially in the context of the global problems in the EU countries. At times it seems to observers that the current situation in Russia is characterized by a strong leader who ensures continuing growth in the prosperity of his citizens, while at the same time maintaining political stability and the standing of the country in the world.</p> <h3><strong>A spending nation</strong></h3> <p>But if observers previously underrated Russia, the likelihood is that now they will over-rate it. Nowhere is this more true than in matters of the economy and investment environment.</p> <p>Russia is a country with a very young market economy, only just over 20 years old. Western countries, unlike Russia, have a much longer history of functioning capitalist institutions. They have learnt enough from their mistakes to develop rules which allow for the preservation of a stable and prosperous society. In Russia, it’s another story. She still not managed to establish the institutions of a market economy, mainly because the policy of liberalization at the time of transition to the market was not carried through with any consistence. An additional point is that the low growth rates are a function of the anti-capitalist mentality so typical of many Russians.</p> <blockquote><p><em>‘…the market economy continues to be regarded unfavourably, which generates continuing reliance on a strong leader and a demand for paternalism.’</em></p></blockquote><p>The situation is paradoxical: Russians have become considerably better off than they were in Soviet times and have many more opportunities, but the market economy continues to be regarded unfavourably, which generates continuing reliance on a strong leader and a demand for paternalism.</p> <p>In Europe, the concept of the Welfare State has existed since Bismarck’s time, and in the US, since Roosevelt. This model was unknown in Russia, but now she is trying to copy what is already disintegrating in Europe. The Russian version of the Welfare State sees the government’s role in the economy increasing, archaic institutions being preserved and no strong rule of law.&nbsp;</p> <p>It is well known that in the international rankings Russia is very far from first as regards her public institutions. The <a href="http://www.weforum.org/">World Economic Forum</a>’s Global Competitiveness Index, for instance, ranks Russia in 122nd place for independence within the judiciary, 124th for political transparency, 133rd for protection of the rights of the individual and 133rd for trust in the police. In the West the Welfare State is linked to the strong rule of law, but increasing government interference in the economy in Russia has not been conducive to the strengthening of public institutions.</p> <p>In recent years the Russian government has developed plans for considerably increased expenditure in all the significant areas of the economy: from re-arming the army to conquering Space, from holding the World Football Championship in 2018 to increased pensions and public sector salaries. This will all mean a ballooning of the bureaucracy, and the various influence groups will redouble their efforts to devise ways of extracting (unearned) income from any situation. Data for Russia show that for every 1000 people there are 110 officials; in OECD countries the average figure is 75, in Brazil it’s 45 and in South Korea only 29.</p><blockquote><p><em>'Europe is currently investigating new ways of reducing expenditure by cutting public sector salaries and privatizing state property, but Russia is going the other way.'</em></p></blockquote> <p>Europe is currently investigating new ways of reducing expenditure by cutting public sector salaries and privatizing state property, but Russia is going the other way.</p> <p>The EU is tightening belts, but Russia is encouraging ever more consumption, and of the most expensive goods too. Not many people from developed countries could afford such purchases. Does this mean that Russia’s level of development and the quality of her public institutions have outstripped Western countries? That the investment climate in Russia is extremely favourable for both foreign and domestic investors?</p> <p>It doesn’t, because investment remains Russia’s biggest problem. Since 2008 the capital outflows have amounted to more than $380 billion and are still continuing, in spite of the extremely high oil prices. One of the reasons for this is the increasing tax and administrative burdens being laid on small and medium businesses. The tariffs are going up because the government needs funds to pay for its colossally expensive projects, and taxes are its main source of revenue. Tariffs for the natural monopolies have also been raised considerably and there are plans to increase duty on alcohol to 36%.</p> <h3><strong>The future of business in Russia</strong></h3> <p>Sociological research by PwC shows that 57% of owners of businesses in Russia intend eventually to sell their companies; for the rest of the world the average figure is 17%.&nbsp; Only 10% of respondents are intending to pass their business on to their children, whereas the average figure for the rest of the world is 25%. This is an indication of the Russian business community’s uncertainty that they will be able to protect their property in the future. They are also disturbed by changes in the pension system. The accumulated benefits system, which was introduced some time ago, has all but collapsed, resulting in a return to the system of pay-as-you-go pensions.</p><blockquote><p><em>'The government is trying to get salary levels nearer to world standards, not by increased productivity, which is only 32% of US productivity rates, but by adjusting the minimum wage down to a minimum.'</em></p></blockquote> <p>The government is trying to get salary levels nearer to world standards, not by increased productivity, which is only 32% of US productivity rates, but by adjusting the minimum wage down to a minimum. The minimum wage in Russia is currently $197, in the USA it’s $1256.70 and in the Netherlands $1622.10, or 8 times more than in Russia. If the minimum wage is increased at the expense of capital and the business community, the economy will not grow, but unemployment and capital outflows will.</p> <p>Another factor making investments in Russia less attractive is the State Anti-Monopoly Service (SAMS). There have been 3197 cases charges brought for abuse of a dominant market position, which is more than in all the countries included in the rankings of anti-monopoly services. The annual figure for the USA is 7 and for the UK 3, so the SAMS is not protecting the consumer from monopoly prices so much as damaging business prospects.</p> <p>Civil servants initiate new Cyclopean projects, relying on the stability of the favourable market conditions to enable them to go on stealing money from the budget under the pretext of making important investments. But Russia does not have enough reserves of capital for hugely expensive projects, so one day it will become all too clear that the economy has insufficient resources to complete all the projects that have been started, that the investments were a mistake and no benefits can possibly accrue to society from them. The revelation of which investments were erroneous is only a matter of time, but the bigger the gap between ambitious plans and real resources, the nearer the end of the mega-projects.</p> <h3><strong>What next?</strong></h3> <p>Russia is country with a <a href="http://www.carnegieendowment.org/2012/01/26/russia-s-demographic-crisis/9aml">falling birth-rate</a>, so the amount per head of the population that the infrastructure is swallowing up just to replenish its capital is permanently on the increase. If funds are used for production, which will only provide consumer opportunities in the distant future, rather than for consumption today, the existing infrastructure will simply collapse in the very near future. In actual fact, it’s already happening with the heating system for housing in St Petersburg, where there are regular large-scale accidents when the underground pipes that bring hot water to the buildings burst.</p><blockquote><p><em>'If funds are used for production, which will only provide consumer opportunities in the distant future, rather than for consumption today, the existing infrastructure will simply collapse in the very near future.'</em></p></blockquote> <p>This trend is unlikely to change because the Russian elites are only interested in the budget being used for their purposes. They will never voluntarily renounce their privileges; financial discipline will deteriorate, state investments will continue to displace private money, and the public sector contributions to GDP will only increase. The only thing that could bounce the system out of this situation would be an external shock, which would force attention on to the economy. Until this happens, the consumer boom, stimulated by expanded credit facilities, will continue to convince the elites and the people of the wisdom of the Welfare State model <em>à la Russe</em>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The World Bank in Russia,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/document/rer-27-march2012-eng.pdf">Russian Economic Report</a>, moderating risks, bolstering growth, April 2012</p> <p>Ease of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/russia/">Doing Business in Russian Federation</a>, 2013, International Finance Corporation, World Bank</p> <p>Clifford G. Gaddy,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.google.pl/search?hl=pl&amp;tbo=p&amp;tbm=bks&amp;q=inauthor:%22Barry+W.+Ickes%22">Barry W. Ickes</a>, Russia's Virtual Economy, Brookings Institution Press, 2002, 306 pages</p> <p>Anders&nbsp;<a href="http://www.google.pl/search?hl=pl&amp;tbo=p&amp;tbm=bks&amp;q=inauthor:%22Anders+%C3%85slund%22">Åslund</a>, Sergei. M. Guriev, Andrew C. Kuchins, Russia After The Global Economic Crisis, Peterson Institute, 2010, 287 pages</p> <p>Chrystia Freeland, Sale of the century: &nbsp;Russia's wild ride from communism to capitalism, Crown Business, 2000, 389 pages</p> <p>Marshall I. Goldman, Petrostate:Putin, Power, and the New Russia: Putin, Power, and the New Russia, Oxford University Press (USA), 2010, 264 pages</p> <p>Yegor Gaidar, Antonina W. Bouis and Anders Aslund , Russia: A Long Viev, The MIT Press, 2012, 568 pages</p> <p>The Political Economy of Russia, Neil Robinson (Editor), Rowman &amp; Littlefield Publishers, 2012, 240 pages</p> <p><a href="http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Digital-Library/Articles/Detail/?ots777=4888caa0-b3db-1461-98b9-e20e7b9c13d4&amp;lng=en&amp;id=53779">Siloviki take reins in post-oligarchy era</a>, Victor Yasmann for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), re-published by International Relations and Security Network, ETH, Zurich, 2007</p> <p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/business/global/with-a-mall-boom-in-russia-property-investors-go-shopping.html?_r=0">Malls Blossom in Russia, With a Middle Class</a>, By Andrew E. Kramer, Tne New York Times, Jan. 1st, 2013</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrei-zaostrovtsev/russia%E2%80%99s-pension-impasse-%E2%80%93-is-there-way-out">Russia’s pension impasse – is there a way out? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrei-zaostrovtsev/russia-oprichnik-economy">Russia: an Oprichnik economy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-travin/whatever-happened-to-russia%E2%80%99s-economic-miracle">Whatever happened to Russia’s economic miracle? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-travin/russian-economy-in-worse-state-than-it-seems">Russian economy: in a worse state than it seems? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/vladimir-gryaznyevich/russian-consumerism-market-boom-chaos">Russian consumerism: market boom chaos</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-zubarevich/four-russias-rethinking-post-soviet-map">Four Russias: rethinking the post-Soviet map</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-zubarevich/russian-unemployment-massaging-stats">Russian unemployment: massaging the stats</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/shamil-yenikeyeff/big-business-under-threat-in-putin%E2%80%99s-russia">Big business under threat in Putin’s Russia?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-butrin/russia-paralysed-by-pragmatism">Russia paralysed by pragmatism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/sergei-guriev/tackling-corruption-in-russian-economy">Tackling corruption in the Russian economy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/pyotr-filippov/is-corruption-in-russias-dna">Is corruption in Russia&#039;s DNA?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/email/russia-s-economic-crisis-no-perestroika-2-0">Russia&#039;s economic crisis – no cue for ‘Perestroika 2.0’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/email/russias-economic-crisis-today">Russia&#039;s economic crisis today</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-travin/russia-is-running-out-of-cash">Russia is running out of cash</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitri-travin/russian-economy-trying-to-please-people-doesn%E2%80%99t-help">Russian economy: trying to please people doesn’t help</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Economics economics russia & eurasia russia Pavel Usanov Russia's new economy Economy Fri, 11 Jan 2013 18:12:13 +0000 Pavel Usanov 70330 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Russian consumerism: market boom chaos https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vladimir-gryaznyevich/russian-consumerism-market-boom-chaos <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/newecon_1.jpg" alt="" width="160" />The collapse of the USSR replaced the perennial shortages of goods and services with the problem of low incomes and rising prices. Today management is grossly inefficient, but rampant corruption blocks any moves to improve the situation. People complain, but they still vote as they’re told at elections, says Vladimir Gryaznyevich</p> </div> </div> </div> <h3><strong>Life inside the land of deficits<em></em></strong></h3> <p>No understanding of the current economic situation in St Petersburg is possible without a brief description of the Soviet economic system.<strong> </strong>Fortunately, Soviet consumer problems are always eloquently illustrated with a joke:</p> <p>&lsquo;A man goes into a shop with a sign indicating that there is meat for sale. On the trays are cuts of meat, which are no more than bones and sinews. He asks if there is any decent pork to be had and the butcher replies, &ldquo;No, but I advise you to come in three days&rsquo; time an hour before we open and join the queue. You might be able to pick something up then.&rdquo; The would-be customer asks about beef. The man starts off on the same suggestion, but the customer interrupts him angrily. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s meat I want, not counsel!&rdquo; The butcher says &ldquo;If you want meat, you have to go to Holland. We live in the Land of Soviets.&rdquo;&rsquo;</p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Empty_shop_0.jpg" alt="Empty shop" width="460" height="320" /></p> <p class="image-caption">The post-Soviet generation has never seen a shop like this. Parents and grandparents, however, remember the nightmare of empty shelves and long queues in the late eighties when the USSR was moving rapidly towards final collapse.</p><p>This particular joke is a play on words &mdash; the Russian word &lsquo;soviet&rsquo; means <strong>council</strong> (the name given to government bodies of all levels in the Soviet Union), but it also means <strong>counsel</strong> or advice.</p><blockquote><p><em>'The main problem for the man in the street during Soviet times was the total lack of goods and services.'</em></p></blockquote> <p>The main problem for the man in the street during Soviet times was the total lack of goods and services. In all, Soviet conditions were very similar to life in prison: everything was strictly ordered in order to ensure overall equality in destitution.&nbsp; Privileges were very highly rated and the people that enjoyed them formed a special kind of social support for the regime.</p> <p>The essence of the privileges was that they offered significant quantities of goods to which ordinary citizens had no access. Employees of some enterprises or government organisations of particular importance to the state were issued with so-called food &lsquo;orders&rsquo;, usually 3-5 units of goods which were not in the ordinary shops: buckwheat, instant coffee, sprats, red caviar and smoked sausage. This could, of course, all be obtained on the black market, as could quality (foreign) goods such as shoes, clothes, home appliances and furniture etc.</p> <h3><strong>From food shortages to cash problems</strong></h3> <p>The market reforms at the beginning of the 90s turned the situation upside down. What became more important for consumers than anything else was the complete privatization of commerce. Shortages of goods and services practically disappeared and in their place (lack of) money became the most acute problem.</p> <p>Russia&rsquo;s economy turned its face to the consumer. The range of shops was almost the same as in European countries and there were as many of them too. Research data collected by commercial property consultants Cushman &amp; Wakefield show that for every 1000 St Petersburg inhabitants there is 437 sq.metres of sales floor space, the same as in Berlin. The number of cafes, restaurants and other such facilities have all grown exponentially since Soviet days. The website spb.allkafe.ru calculates that there are 1954 restaurants in St Petersburg, 2387 cafes and another 4779 similar establishments. There are many more hotels, too (although it&rsquo;s not always easy to find a room during the high season). All in all, St Petersburg is now very like any other European metropolis.</p><blockquote><p><em>'The market reforms at the beginning of the 90s turned the situation upside down. What became more important for consumers than anything else was the complete privatization of commerce.'</em></p></blockquote> <p>For the absolute majority of Russians the radical changes in the economy at the beginning of the 90s were not unlike emigration: some of the problems disappeared, but others came in their place. Styles of life changed dramatically in that Russians had to organize their own jobs and salaries, which simply didn&rsquo;t happen in Soviet times. This was a major source of psychological frustration, all the more so because very low income levels meant that some problems remain unsolved: 70-80% of Russians, for instance, are still not able to travel abroad for holidays or, more importantly, to live in suitable accommodation.</p> <p>Officially, there is no longer a housing shortage. In recent years private construction companies (there aren&rsquo;t any others) have been building 2 million sq. metres of housing per year: apartment blocks and individual cottages. But municipal social housing is only available for a very limited number of people; and the criteria for getting on the list are much more rigorous than in Soviet times. For those Russians buying their own accommodation, prices are often higher than in Europe: 1 sq.metre in an ordinary &lsquo;economy class&rsquo; flat costs about 100,000 roubles ($3,300.00 or &euro;2,500.00).&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, most Russians are not in a position to buy because their incomes wouldn&rsquo;t stretch to it, even with a 30-year mortgage (typically with a 10-15% interest rate). Prices may be at European levels, but incomes are many times lower. In St Petersburg today,&nbsp; the average monthly salary is 30,000 roubles (about $1,000 or &euro;750). </p><blockquote><p><em>'But municipal social housing is only available for a very limited number of people; and the criteria for getting on the list are much more rigorous than in Soviet times.'</em></p></blockquote><p>These headline figures mask a huge disparity between the salaries of various categories of the working population, much greater than in developed countries. So, for example, the average monthly salary of a lecturer in a higher education institute is 20,000 roubles, whereas the rector might well be getting 5 million roubles (figures from Petersburg Statistical Service).</p> <p>The rental market in St Petersburg is underdeveloped, but rents are high and inaccessible to most (a 2-bedroom flat might cost $700-1000 per month). The only property most people can afford is a (second-hand) car. In 1990 (the penultimate year of the USSR) there were 56 cars for every 1000 people but car ownership has grown and by the end of 2011 that figure was 350. Sergei Tselikov, an analyst at Autostat, believes that if the current growth rates continue, by 2020 the average number of cars in the big cities this &lsquo;will be more like 500 per 1000 &mdash; that is, if by that time the endless traffic jams haven&rsquo;t brought life to a complete standstill&rsquo;.</p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Jewellery_St_Pete_0.jpg" alt="Jewellery_store_Petersburg" width="460" height="310" /></p> <p class="image-caption">The new Russian economy has turned its face towards the consumer. The rich can afford anything and the poor have difficulty making ends meet. Social contrasts are more marked in Russia than in most European countries (photo: Anatoly Medved&rsquo;, RIA Novosti Agency, all rights reserved)</p><p>This last comment touches on what most specialists consider the biggest problem in today&rsquo;s Russia: the inefficiency of management, the distinctly underwhelming calibre of people who work in administration and their casual disdain for the interests of the citizens they are supposed to be serving in order to protect at all costs the interests of officialdom.</p> <h3><strong>The state lagging behind</strong></h3> <p>The area most people consider to be worst affected by bad management is housing and communal services. The city infrastructure as a whole is in an appalling state, including roads, public transport, health services and education. The state of their equipment and their organization fall far short of the public&rsquo;s real needs. People have expectations that are not far off European standards, but the infrastructure is more suited to a third world country. This is particularly true in the big cities.</p><blockquote><p><em>'The area most people consider to be worst affected by bad management is housing and communal services (HCS).'</em></p></blockquote> <p>The main reason for such inefficient state management is the rampant corruption throughout the civil service, which has become the backbone of the system. Not that any of this is a great secret &mdash;&nbsp; Medvedev spoke of this while he was president and the media write about it often and in great detail. But nothing changes.</p> <p>Indeed, as the old Russian saying goes, &lsquo;the fish rots from the head down&rsquo;. Russians mostly understand this, but at elections seem in no hurry to replace the &lsquo;rotten head&rsquo; with a healthy one.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The World Bank in Russia,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/document/rer-27-march2012-eng.pdf">Russian Economic Report</a>, moderating risks, bolstering growth, April 2012</p> <p>Ease of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/russia/">Doing Business in Russian Federation</a>, 2013, International Finance Corporation, World Bank</p> <p>Clifford G. Gaddy,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.google.pl/search?hl=pl&amp;tbo=p&amp;tbm=bks&amp;q=inauthor:%22Barry+W.+Ickes%22">Barry W. Ickes</a>, Russia's Virtual Economy, Brookings Institution Press, 2002, 306 pages</p> <p>Anders&nbsp;<a href="http://www.google.pl/search?hl=pl&amp;tbo=p&amp;tbm=bks&amp;q=inauthor:%22Anders+%C3%85slund%22">Åslund</a>, Sergei. M. Guriev, Andrew C. Kuchins, Russia After The Global Economic Crisis, Peterson Institute, 2010, 287 pages</p> <p>Chrystia Freeland, Sale of the century: &nbsp;Russia's wild ride from communism to capitalism, Crown Business, 2000, 389 pages</p> <p>Marshall I. Goldman, Petrostate:Putin, Power, and the New Russia: Putin, Power, and the New Russia, Oxford University Press (USA), 2010, 264 pages</p> <p>Yegor Gaidar, Antonina W. Bouis and Anders Aslund , Russia: A Long Viev, The MIT Press, 2012, 568 pages</p> <p>The Political Economy of Russia, Neil Robinson (Editor), Rowman &amp; Littlefield Publishers, 2012, 240 pages</p> <p><a href="http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Digital-Library/Articles/Detail/?ots777=4888caa0-b3db-1461-98b9-e20e7b9c13d4&amp;lng=en&amp;id=53779">Siloviki take reins in post-oligarchy era</a>, Victor Yasmann for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), re-published by International Relations and Security Network, ETH, Zurich, 2007</p> <p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/business/global/with-a-mall-boom-in-russia-property-investors-go-shopping.html?_r=0">Malls Blossom in Russia, With a Middle Class</a>, By Andrew E. Kramer, Tne New York Times, Jan. 1st, 2013</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrei-zaostrovtsev/russia-oprichnik-economy">Russia: an Oprichnik economy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-travin/whatever-happened-to-russia%E2%80%99s-economic-miracle">Whatever happened to Russia’s economic miracle? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-zubarevich/four-russias-rethinking-post-soviet-map">Four Russias: rethinking the post-Soviet map</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-zubarevich/russian-unemployment-massaging-stats">Russian unemployment: massaging the stats</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/shamil-yenikeyeff/big-business-under-threat-in-putin%E2%80%99s-russia">Big business under threat in Putin’s Russia?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-butrin/russia-paralysed-by-pragmatism">Russia paralysed by pragmatism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sergei-guriev/tackling-corruption-in-russian-economy">Tackling corruption in the Russian economy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/pyotr-filippov/is-corruption-in-russias-dna">Is corruption in Russia&#039;s DNA?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/email/russia-s-economic-crisis-no-perestroika-2-0">Russia&#039;s economic crisis – no cue for ‘Perestroika 2.0’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/email/russias-economic-crisis-today">Russia&#039;s economic crisis today</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/email/have-i-betrayed-the-russian-economy">Have I betrayed the Russian economy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-travin/russia-is-running-out-of-cash">Russia is running out of cash</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitri-travin/russian-economy-trying-to-please-people-doesn%E2%80%99t-help">Russian economy: trying to please people doesn’t help</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-travin/russian-economy-in-worse-state-than-it-seems">Russian economy: in a worse state than it seems? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/pavel-usanov/investment-wonderland-reality-checks">An investment wonderland? Reality checks</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Saint Petersburg Russia Economics economics russia & eurasia russia Vladimir Gryaznyevich Russia's new economy Economy Thu, 10 Jan 2013 18:12:14 +0000 Vladimir Gryaznyevich 70310 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Russia: an Oprichnik economy https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrei-zaostrovtsev/russia-oprichnik-economy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/newecon.jpg" alt="" width="160" />Owning a business in Russia today is a hazardous affair: each year thousands of companies close after their owners are accused of ‘economic crimes’ and face either prison or protection payments to government officials. Andrey Zaostrovtsev describes a system reminiscent of an equally lawless period in Russia’s past (photo: RIA Novosti Agency).</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Writing in 2011, The former judge Sergei Pashin characterised today’s Russian economy as ‘an Oprichnik mode of production’. The Oprichniki, Ivan the Terrible’s (1530-1584) personal bodyguards, bring up a horrifying image in the Russian consciousness. Subject to the Tsar alone, the Oprichniki obeyed no laws, and in the course of their criminal activities they were known to lay waste to whole regions of Russia. </p> <p>But what exactly did Pashin mean by his phrase, and laws are actually operating in Russia’s economy today? </p> <h3><strong>A licence to rob</strong></h3> <p>Clearly, Putin’s attempts to build ‘power vertical’ has culminated in a fully formed authoritarian regime. This has been recognised by all international classifications. The Freedom House organisation, for example, in its annual <a href="http://www.freedomhouse.org/search/Nations%20in%20Transit">Nations in Transit</a> report has since 2008 described Russia as a ‘consolidated authoritarian regime’. The country was also categorised for the first time as an authoritarian regime by the Economist’s Intelligence Unit in its 2011Democracy Index.</p> <p>Yet international ratings and general definitions of authoritarian regimes are an inadequate guide to the specific characteristics of Russian society as it has evolved in the first decade of the 21st century. In fact, it is a society made up of various socio-economic classes, each with its own rights, and privileges, including the right to dispose of economic assets. It is not a society of equal citizens: it is a society of elites. </p> <p>Putin is the Tsar of the bureaucracy. He guarantees its privileges; it provides him with support for his rule and a channel for his will. The Russian bureaucracy is however too large and too heterogeneous. It is divided into a number of social groups, some with a greater, and some with a lesser degree of power. But it is always less a question of official prerogatives than of informal opportunities for using legal rights for illegal purposes. Naturally, the people with the greatest opportunities are the so-called ‘Siloviki’, literally, the ‘men of force’ – powerful members of Putin’s circle, many of whom have, like Putin himself, a background in the security services. The Siloviki are known for using their official coercive rights for their own personal ends, and get rich thanks to illicit ‘taxation’ of business and the transfer of property and assets to ‘crony firms’. </p> <p>Russia is a predatory state, dedicated to screwing private business.&nbsp; The Silovik bureaucracy, which includes not just the FSB, MVD (Interior Ministry), Federal Public Prosecutor’s Department, Investigative Committee and State Drugs Control Agency, but also the courts, the FSIN (Federal Service for Execution of Punishment, which controls prisons) and the tax authorities, is constantly engaged in this. And it is very unlikely that there is a single owner of a private company who has not been the object of the Silovik protection racket.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <blockquote><p><em>'The Siloviki are known for using their official coercive rights for their own personal ends, and get rich thanks to illicit ‘taxation’ of business and the transfer of property and assets to ‘crony firms’.&nbsp;</em></p></blockquote> <p>This model of relations between government and business has its roots in the fact that Russia has exchanged one kind of lawlessness for another. Organs of repression are always happy to carry out any political directive from the ruling clique in exchange for a licence to appropriate people’s money and other assets. And a mechanism for doing this is furnished by the legal and official powers granted to them by the state. </p> <h3><strong>The criminal-judicial management of the economy</strong></h3> <p>The Siloviki have a wide variety of means at their disposal to part business owners from their income and assets, but they all have something in common. Everything starts with a false criminal charge based on one of the so-called Economic&nbsp; Articles of the Criminal Code. The alleged offender is then presented with three options: he or she can buy a way out for a substantial sum, make regular payments to a nominated middleman or sell their business at a knockdown price to a company with informal links to the Siloviki. </p> <p>The victim often receives a prison sentence for their alleged crime, which simplifies the appropriation of their business immensely. He or she may also pay for a lighter penalty, a suspended sentence for example. But any business owner who actively resists this process is certain to end up behind bars. In fact, some people convicted of economic crimes get longer sentences than murderers. </p> <blockquote><p><em>'</em><em>The alleged offender is presented with three options: buy a way out for a substantial sum, make regular payments to a nominated middleman or sell their business at a knockdown price to a company with informal links to the Siloviki.'</em></p></blockquote> <p>The wonderfully precise definition, ‘the criminal-judicial management of the economy’ belongs to Dr Yelena Novikova, Director of Moscow’s Centre for Legal and Economic Studies. It will be obvious that such a system implies the collaboration of a whole range of people: investigators, public prosecutors, judges, jailers, and often also tax inspectors and various expert witnesses prepared to lie in court. In this context the Russian government acts like a gang of robber barons, indulging in theft on a grand scale under cover of the law. And the scale is very grand indeed. A number of recent studies in Russia have revealed, among other things, the true magnitude of this problem. The most striking of these, entitled ‘Criminal Politics in the Economic Sphere: Expert Opinions’ was published in 2011 by the Moscow NGO ‘Liberal Mission Foundation’. It states that ‘in 2000-2010, over 15% of the total number of Russian economic entities (commercial organisations, individual businesspeople and farmers) were subjected to unfounded criminal proceedings in connection with their business activities. According to experts, the number of persons convicted and imprisoned in connection with business activities is more than 100,000. While at least 15-20% of those convicted of economic crimes are in detention without sufficient grounds.’</p> <p>The report notes that such consolidated repression of a specific group of Russian business owners was last practised by the Soviet government in the late1920s and early 1930s, the time of collectivization (when the victims were the Kulaks, the richer peasants) and the end of the liberal ‘New Economic Policy’ initiated by Lenin in the early 1920s to kick start the Soviet economy. Today history is repeating itself, not (as Marx would have it) as farce, but as a new tragedy.</p> <h3><strong>The effect on Russia’s economy</strong></h3> <p>The scale of Russia’s state run racket is clear from a study carried out by the Institute for the Rule of Law at St. Petersburg’s European University. According to this study, only 10-15% of criminal cases brought by the police in connection with alleged economic crimes ever end in a conviction. And even if we assume that all these convictions are justified, this implies that for each conviction, 6-10 business owners have faced charges. The remaining 85-90% of cases were lost either through police incompetence, or because the accused bought their way out or agreed to hand over protection money or some form of payment in kind.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <blockquote><p><em>'17% of business owners are seriously considering emigrating, giving as their main reason the vulnerability of private property and general lack of protection from the law, as well as fear of arrest and officials’ abuse of power.'</em></p></blockquote> <p>I think we have to assume that it is the last option that is the most common.&nbsp; Of course it is a very good thing that so few cases come to court and end in conviction. The point frequently made in these studies, however, is that the very fact of a case being opened usually means that the company in question can no longer continue its commercial activity and will eventually fail. And terrible human tragedies often lurk behind these dry phrases. </p> <p>The ‘Criminal Politics in the Economic Sphere’ report records the fact that between 2006 and 2010 the number of companies that ceased trading increased year by year, and in 2010 made up over 80% of the total number of registered businesses.&nbsp; Seventeen percent of business owners are seriously considering emigrating in the next five years, giving as their main reason the vulnerability of private property and general lack of protection from the law, as well as fear of arrest and officials’ abuse of their power. </p><p> What conclusions can we draw? Simply, that a disregard for citizens’ legal rights in Russia’s economic life has led to the disappearance each year of companies collectively contributing an average of 1.82% to Russia’s GDP (in other words, an overall 12.75% in the years 2004-2010). Or to put it another way, the best means of&nbsp; insuring an increase in the country’s growth rate would be to get rid of the Siloviki. This, however, is more easily said than done: an Oprichnik has taken over the Russian economy and has no intention of handing it back.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The World Bank in Russia, <a href="http://www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/document/rer-27-march2012-eng.pdf">Russian Economic Report</a>, moderating risks, bolstering growth, April 2012</p> <p>Ease of <a href="http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/russia/">Doing Business in Russian Federation</a>, 2013, International Finance Corporation, World Bank</p> <p>Clifford G. Gaddy, <a href="http://www.google.pl/search?hl=pl&amp;tbo=p&amp;tbm=bks&amp;q=inauthor:%22Barry+W.+Ickes%22">Barry W. Ickes</a>, Russia's Virtual Economy, Brookings Institution Press, 2002, 306 pages</p> <p>Anders <a href="http://www.google.pl/search?hl=pl&amp;tbo=p&amp;tbm=bks&amp;q=inauthor:%22Anders+%C3%85slund%22">Åslund</a>, Sergei. M. Guriev, Andrew C. Kuchins, Russia After The Global Economic Crisis, Peterson Institute, 2010, 287 pages</p> <p>Chrystia Freeland, Sale of the century: &nbsp;Russia's wild ride from communism to capitalism, Crown Business, 2000, 389 pages</p> <p>Marshall I. Goldman, Petrostate:Putin, Power, and the New Russia: Putin, Power, and the New Russia, Oxford University Press (USA), 2010, 264 pages</p> <p>Yegor Gaidar, Antonina W. Bouis and Anders Aslund , Russia: A Long Viev, The MIT Press, 2012, 568 pages</p> <p>The Political Economy of Russia, Neil Robinson (Editor), Rowman &amp; Littlefield Publishers, 2012, 240 pages</p> <p><a href="http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Digital-Library/Articles/Detail/?ots777=4888caa0-b3db-1461-98b9-e20e7b9c13d4&amp;lng=en&amp;id=53779">Siloviki take reins in post-oligarchy era</a>, Victor Yasmann for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), re-published by International Relations and Security Network, ETH, Zurich, 2007</p> <p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/business/global/with-a-mall-boom-in-russia-property-investors-go-shopping.html?_r=0">Malls Blossom in Russia, With a Middle Class</a>, By Andrew E. Kramer, Tne New York Times, Jan. 1st, 2013</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-travin/russian-economy-in-worse-state-than-it-seems">Russian economy: in a worse state than it seems? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-travin/whatever-happened-to-russia%E2%80%99s-economic-miracle">Whatever happened to Russia’s economic miracle? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-zubarevich/four-russias-rethinking-post-soviet-map">Four Russias: rethinking the post-Soviet map</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-zubarevich/russian-unemployment-massaging-stats">Russian unemployment: massaging the stats</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/shamil-yenikeyeff/big-business-under-threat-in-putin%E2%80%99s-russia">Big business under threat in Putin’s Russia?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-butrin/russia-paralysed-by-pragmatism">Russia paralysed by pragmatism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sergei-guriev/tackling-corruption-in-russian-economy">Tackling corruption in the Russian economy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/pyotr-filippov/is-corruption-in-russias-dna">Is corruption in Russia&#039;s DNA?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/email/russia-s-economic-crisis-no-perestroika-2-0">Russia&#039;s economic crisis – no cue for ‘Perestroika 2.0’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/email/have-i-betrayed-the-russian-economy">Have I betrayed the Russian economy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-travin/russia-is-running-out-of-cash">Russia is running out of cash</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitri-travin/russian-economy-trying-to-please-people-doesn%E2%80%99t-help">Russian economy: trying to please people doesn’t help</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Russia Economics economics russia & eurasia russia Andrei Zaostrovtsev Russia's new economy Economy Wed, 09 Jan 2013 18:02:29 +0000 Andrei Zaostrovtsev 70283 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Whatever happened to Russia’s economic miracle? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-travin/whatever-happened-to-russia%E2%80%99s-economic-miracle <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/newecon.jpg" alt="" width="160" />The first eight years of the last decade were incredibly successful for Russia’s economy, but the crisis of 2008 hit hard and growth remains decidedly sluggish. Dmitry Travin wonders whether the country’s economy will ever be able to regain the Midas touch.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Does Russia have a strong or a weak economy? It’s very difficult to judge by just looking at its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In the 1990s the GDP fell steadily, creating an impression that the Russian economy was in meltdown. But after reaching its lowest point in 1998, it began to grow again, showing an annual rise of up to 7-8%, considerably higher than the equivalent figures in developed countries. People began to talk about Russia, under its new leader Vladimir Putin, undergoing radical change and gradually emerging as a front runner in economic development. In the first years of the new century it was talked about in the same breath as other large rapidly developing states such as China, India and Brazil. Some optimists even expected an ‘economic miracle’ that would put Russia in the forefront of global economic development.</p> <p>Then suddenly it all changed. The economic crisis of 2008 hit Russia especially hard. By autumn the GDP was starting to fall, and the overall figure for the year reached barely 5%. The following year was catastrophic: instead of rising by 8% GDP fell by the same amount, confounding many of the experts who analysed the situation. The Russian government, however, tried to gloss over this apparently disastrous state of affairs, blaming the West for the crisis and claiming that everything was fine: the economy was healthy and it was just a question of overcoming the negative effect of problems originating in the USA. </p> <blockquote><p>‘<em>2009 was catastrophic: instead of rising by 8% GDP fell by the same amount. The Russian government, however, tried to gloss over this apparently disastrous state of affairs, blaming the West for the crisis and claiming that everything was fine’</em></p></blockquote> <p>Three years have passed since the 2009 crisis – long enough to allow an accurate assessment of the real state of the Russian economy. We can say that it has recovered from the catastrophe of 2009, but that it has failed to return to the astounding rate of growth that marked the mid 2000s. At present the increase in GDP is about 4% per annum, half the rate of its best performance, and there is a growing pessimism among Russians about possibilities for further growth, let alone a return to the figures of several years ago. </p> <h3><strong>Why all the boom and bust? </strong></h3> <p>So what caused these extreme swings in GDP, from collapse in the 90s to rapid growth, then the crisis of 2008-9 and the slow increase of the last three years? To answer that question, it is essential to understand the enormous changes that have taken place in the Russian economy over the last two decades. </p> <p>The collapse of the 1990s was a result of a radical change in the structure of Russia’s economy: many areas of production developed in the Soviet period could not remain unchanged in the switch to a market economy. The defence industry, for example, shrank heavily, since Russia’s reformers wanted to leave behind the Cold War and the arms race, and the government was no longer interested in financing the production of tanks, warships and artillery. So those factories that couldn’t rapidly convert their production from military to civilian and consumer hardware basically had to close down, and this was of course reflected in the GDP. The events of the 90s were a hard test for Russia, but not in any sense a catastrophe: the widespread closure of industrial plants was a necessary step towards a complete break with the Stalinist model of a strongly militarised economy. </p> <p>The rapid growth of GDP between 1999 and 2007 was a sign of serious renewal in the Russian economy. This had, however, very little to do with Vladimir Putin, who came to power in 2000. Putin influenced growth only through a reform of the tax system (initiated by his Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin), which lowered the rates of almost all principal taxes. This reform was a very sensible measure, but the main reasons for rapid growth lay elsewhere.</p> <blockquote><p><em>‘The events of the 90s were a hard test for Russia, but not in any sense a catastrophe: the widespread closure of industrial plants was a necessary step towards a complete break with the Stalinist model of a strongly militarised economy</em>.’</p></blockquote> <p>In the first place, at the end of the 90s a decline in the rouble exchange rate brought about a steep fall in foreign imports. The empty shop shelves began to be filled with locally-produced goods. In the second, a steep rise in oil prices brought soaring profits for Russian energy companies: oil and gas are Russian industry’s key products and a favourable situation on world markets had brought benefits for the development of the country as a whole. Given Russia’s strong dependence on oil and gas exports, it was no surprise that the 2008 crisis affected GDP. Global prices fell: so much for the Russian ‘economic miracle’. </p> <h3><strong>What’s the situation now?</strong></h3> <p>Since then, oil prices have risen again, but not to the level they reached in the summer of 2008. So the state of the Russian economy today can’t be compared to that of the years before the crisis; the improvement in prices has been enough to compensate for the drop experienced in 2008, but not sufficient to create a stimulus for further dynamic growth. Russia’s economy lacks any alternative to oil as a driving force to carry other branches of industry along with it. For that reason, if oil prices remain at their current level, the rate of rise in GDP will probably drop or even stagnate. </p> <p>Can we talk about another factor that could replace oil prices as an economic stimulus in Russia? If global demand for oil and gas remains steady, Russia has enough reserves to avoid economic crisis for another couple of decades. Putin is well aware of this, and has encouraged the construction of oil and gas pipe lines capable of supplying enough of these fuels to meet higher future demand from international customers. These include the ‘Northern Stream’ (which can probably be considered a real success) and ‘Southern Stream’ gas pipelines to Europe, and the ESPO (Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean) oil pipeline. </p> <blockquote><p><em>‘Russia’s economy lacks any alternative to oil as a driving force to carry other branches of industry along with it. For that reason, if oil prices remain at their current level, the rate of rise in GDP will probably drop or even stagnate.’</em></p></blockquote> <p>The Russian government has, however, failed to take into consideration the rapid development of shale gas production in the USA, which is creating a global market situation that is less favourable to Russia. 2012 saw, for example, a shutdown in production at the Shtokman gas condensate field in the Barents Sea, a project that Russia had great hopes for until very recently. And although Putin says that he will find investors for the Shtokman field in the near future, there can be no guarantee that this will happen. It may turn out that in the light of the changed situation in the gas market, its development is already unviable. The future of oil sales to China may also be shaky. The problem is that the ESPO pipe line takes oil to the northern regions of China, which are among the least developed parts of the country. Other areas, with a greater demand for oil, are just as easily supplied from further afield using tankers, so Russia will encounter stiff competition from other producers there. </p> <h3><strong>Can Russia go on living off its oil and gas?</strong></h3> <p>Russian economists have long since been talking about the need for Russia to abandon its dependence on oil and gas and develop other economic sectors. The current depressed investment climate, however, makes this difficult. For Russia to begin to live off a highly efficient industrial sector, rather than oil and gas revenues, it requires serious foreign investment. But as the last few years have shown, no one is investing in Russia.&nbsp; The country, moreover, has only itself to blame for this, since it has failed to provide any guarantee of ownership rights. This issue is covered in more detail in Pavel Usanov’s article about the investment climate and Andrey Zaostrovtsev’s about the so-called ‘Oprichnik Economy’, named after Ivan the Terrible’s bodyguards who, answerable only to him, felt free to lay whole regions of Russia to waste.&nbsp; </p> <blockquote><p>‘<em>The ESPO pipe line takes oil to the northern regions of China, among the least developed parts of the country.&nbsp; Areas with a greater demand for oil are as easily supplied from further afield using tankers, so Russia will encounter stiff competition there.’</em></p></blockquote> <p>To keep up the growth in GDP, Putin will probably resort to more state regulation in the near future. This will, for instance, include an increase in the defence budget, in the hope of stimulating production in the military industrial sector. This approach will also strengthen his political position, since this sector’s employees have been his core support group during the wave of protests that has shaken Russia over the last year. People in the defence industry realise that any development of democracy in Russia will mean cuts in military expenditure, and they are determined to keep Putin in power if they can. </p> <p>The Russian government, however, simply doesn’t have the money to increase defence spending to any extent. Conflict over this issue already led, a year ago, to the resignation of Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin, who argued that today’s Russia couldn’t afford a more military-based economy. Putin accepted Kudrin’s resignation, but still listens to him and won’t let his government allocate more than a reasonable amount to defence spending.&nbsp; </p><p> One has to conclude that unless oil prices go up, Russia can probably expect a lower rate of growth in GDP. A new economic miracle is just not on the cards.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><strong>Also by Dmitry Travin on openDemocracy Russia:</strong></p> <p><a title="1550 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-travin/fathers-and-sons-generational-gap-in-russian-opposition">Fathers and sons: a generational gap in the Russian opposition?</a></p> <p><a title="1490 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/russia-is-running-out-of-cash">Russia is running out of cash</a></p> <p><a title="1585 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/russia-over-cuckoo%E2%80%99s-nest">Russia, over the cuckoo’s nest</a></p> <p><a title="1432 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/is-russia%E2%80%99s-protest-movement-flash-in-pan">Is Russia’s protest movement a flash in the pan?</a></p> <p><a title="1319 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/crisis-planning-what-chance-%E2%80%98soft%E2%80%99-putin">Crisis planning: what chance a ‘soft’ Putin?</a></p> <p><a title="1488 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/crisis-planning-which-way-forward-for-putin%E2%80%99s-regime">Crisis planning: which way forward for Putin’s regime?</a></p> <p><a title="1663 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/putins-comeback-and-why-opposition-lost">Why the opposition lost to Putin</a></p> <p><a title="1406 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-travin/putin%E2%80%99s-charm-offensive-will-he-moderate-his-course">Putin’s charm offensive: will he moderate his course?</a></p> <p><a title="1699 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/russian-economy-trying-to-please-people-doesn%E2%80%99t-help">Russian economy: trying to please people doesn’t help</a></p> <p><a title="239 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/russian-reforms-twenty-years-on">Russian reforms, twenty years on</a></p> <p><a title="2304 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/return-of-street-fighter">The return of the street fighter</a></p> <p><a title="1796 words, 0 comments" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitri-travin/ukraine-belarus-russia-%E2%80%94-family-reunited">Ukraine, Belarus, Russia — family reunited?</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-butrin/russia-paralysed-by-pragmatism">Russia paralysed by pragmatism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/sergei-guriev/tackling-corruption-in-russian-economy">Tackling corruption in the Russian economy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-zubarevich/four-russias-rethinking-post-soviet-map">Four Russias: rethinking the post-Soviet map</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-zubarevich/russian-unemployment-massaging-stats">Russian unemployment: massaging the stats</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/shamil-yenikeyeff/big-business-under-threat-in-putin%E2%80%99s-russia">Big business under threat in Putin’s Russia?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/pyotr-filippov/is-corruption-in-russias-dna">Is corruption in Russia&#039;s DNA?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/email/russia-s-economic-crisis-no-perestroika-2-0">Russia&#039;s economic crisis – no cue for ‘Perestroika 2.0’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/email/have-i-betrayed-the-russian-economy">Have I betrayed the Russian economy?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Russia Economics economics russia & eurasia russia Dmitry Travin Russia's new economy Economy Mon, 07 Jan 2013 19:29:39 +0000 Dmitry Travin 70242 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Scenes from an uprising: the Kopeysk revolt https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/olesya-gerasimenko/scenes-from-uprising-kopeysk-revolt <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" alt="" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/RIAN_01296810.LR_.en_.jpg " width="160" />A mutiny at a prison camp in the Chelyabinsk region of central Russia has just shaken the country. Olesya Gerasimenko is one of the few journalists whom its director allowed into the penal zone, and to date the only one to interview him.</p> </div> </div> </div> <h3><strong>&lsquo;Don&rsquo;t go away, or they&rsquo;ll kill us&rsquo;</strong></h3> <p class="p1">Denis Mekhanov, the director of Penal Colony No 6 (IK-6) in Kopeysk, had his 30th birthday on 9th November, and he and his wife and four year old daughter were due to fly off on holiday on 26th November. But on Saturday 24th, a &lsquo;parents&rsquo; day&rsquo; when families could visit their relatives in the camp, 500 inmates refused to return their barracks and workshops after breakfast. &lsquo;It all happened so quickly, the staff had no time to react&rsquo;, Mekhanov told me. Dozens of prisoners climbed up on the roof and the scaffold tower and unfurled banners reading &lsquo;People, help us!&rsquo;; &lsquo;The administration steals money from us&rsquo;; &lsquo;We are being tortured and murdered&rsquo;; &lsquo;There are 1500 of us&rsquo;. </p><p class="p1"><img alt="" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/map0.png%20" width="460" /></p><p class="p1">The slogans were not written in blood, as the terrified relatives waiting outside initially thought: the inmates had instead got sheets of cloth and red and black paint from the prison workshops. Shock Troops from the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) were called out; OMON riot police were stationed at entry points. The family members were initially told that it was a training exercise. But the convicts shouted at them, &lsquo;Don&rsquo;t go away, or they&rsquo;ll kill us!&rsquo; Relatives started arguing with the police, and pelted them with snowballs and stones; then they started rocking a jeep containing the local police chief from side to side. The riot police went on the attack: releasing dogs, beating men&rsquo;s faces in, hitting women with truncheons. One girl&rsquo;s arm was broken, and a prisoner&rsquo;s pregnant girlfriend lost her baby the next day. </p> <p class="p1">Meanwhile inside the prison the inmates continued their peaceful protest, standing in the open air all night and all the next day, taking it in turns to go inside to warm up. On Sunday evening a discussion was organised, with the local public prosecutor, the regional ombudsman and relatives of three prisoners sitting at tables in the colony&rsquo;s assembly hall where 60 of the protesters had gathered. Two representatives spoke for them. One was a prisoner known as &lsquo;Tyson&rsquo;, who had already served 10 years of a sentence for raping a 13 year old girl; the other the ex deputy mayor of Magnitogorsk, Vitaly Sidorenko, sent down for bribery, who had arrived in Kopeysk just two weeks earlier. His glasses glinting, the former official told those assembled that what went on there was &lsquo;an insult to human dignity &ndash; moral, physical and psychological&rsquo;. </p><p class="p1">&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">Later, director Mekhanov announced that he had spoken to Sidorenko, and that the latter had fallen under the influence of bad people who had exploited his intellectual capabilities. On the morning of 26th November the convicts gradually climbed down from the roof, but continued their hunger strike. Various officials arrived at the colony for an enquiry. There were representatives of the Russian ombudsman from Moscow and observers from the local community. Rumours were flying around the town &ndash; of someone falling from the tower, of 12 people killed in the barracks, of mass opening of veins. Mekhanov cancelled his flight to Egypt. </p> <h3><strong>Just business</strong></h3> <p class="p1">After several days, the worst rumours had been refuted: it was only a jacket that had fallen, not a man; no one had died and the guards had not beaten up any prisoners afterwards. The protest was a nonviolent one, and its peaceful outcome amazed everyone, from inmates and their relatives to the troops and the ombudsman&rsquo;s representatives. &lsquo;Camp staff dressed in prison uniforms even tried to provoke them, but the prisoners didn&rsquo;t fall for it and refused to get into a fight&rsquo;, said Nikolay Shchur from the national Public Monitoring Committee (ONK), set up in 2008 to ensure the observation of human rights in penal institutions. </p> <p class="p1">&lsquo;99% of prison protests end with the use of the special services and brute force&rsquo;, Mekhanov explained to me. &lsquo;Peaceful outcomes are rare. I warned them: don&rsquo;t break anything, don&rsquo;t destroy anything, or I&rsquo;ll send in the troops. I also increased the number of machine gunners in the watch towers. But the prisoners themselves didn&rsquo;t want any violence and shouted from the roofs:&rdquo;We won&rsquo;t do anything, you don&rsquo;t need the troops&rdquo;.&rsquo; </p> <blockquote><p class="p2"><em>At any time there will usually be 15-20 prisoners in solitary for some infringement or another, and there creature comforts are minimal, with no tea or cigarettes and constant loud music, often by a German heavy metal band. </em></p></blockquote> <p class="p1">Kopeysk IK-6 is a strict regime camp for prisoners convicted of serious crimes &ndash; half of the 1600 inmates are in for murder. The majority are also young men, many no older than 21. At any moment there will usually be 15-20 prisoners in solitary for some infringement or another, and there creature comforts are minimal, with no tea or cigarettes and constant loud music, often by the German heavy metal band Rammstein. Another 300 inmates live in &lsquo;lighter conditions&rsquo; thanks to good behaviour and a good attitude to work; their barracks are well decorated, with proper bathrooms, a DVD player, a library and even eBooks. Mekhanov says that none of these prisoners took part in the protest. </p> <p class="p1">Among the demands of the hunger strikers and protesters was an end to torture and extortion by the camp staff. These complaints are not new: the prisoners say they have been sending them, via their families, to the public prosecutor&rsquo;s office for many years. They also wanted improvements in their conditions and the release of some prisoners from solitary confinement. </p> <p class="p1">The main problem in the camp, according to both official and unofficial human rights bodies, is the excessive financial &lsquo;collections&rsquo; made by the administration from the inmates, referred to as &lsquo;voluntary contributions&rsquo;, and the violence that results if an inmate refuses to pay. Wives and mothers waiting outside the gates also told me that they had to pay 3,000-5,000 roubles (&pound;60-100) for a visit, and that there were only 24 rooms where visitors could stay overnight when there should have been 90. By law visits should be free, but the camp has three classes of accommodation: free rooms, where however you have to pay for extras like clean sheets or a kettle; &lsquo;semi-luxe&rsquo; costing 750r (&pound;15) a day, and &lsquo;de luxe&rsquo; for 1,400r (&pound;28). I had a look at these &lsquo;de luxe&rsquo; rooms, in a windowless one-story building. Each of the nine rooms is painted a different colour &ndash; green, lilac, pale blue &ndash; and has furniture made here in the camp, as well as a DVD player, a separate shower, air conditioning, a kitchen and a mini-bar. </p> <blockquote><p class="p2"><em>&lsquo;The main problem in the camp is the excessive financial &lsquo;collections&rsquo; made by the administration from the inmates. Prisoners who refuse to pay up are subjected to &lsquo;chilling&rsquo; (being confined in an unheated space and/or forced to strip in cold weather), beatings and sleep deprivation.&rsquo;</em></p></blockquote> <p class="p1">According to the families, support for parole applications are also expensive, running to 35,000 -150,000 roubles (&pound;700-3,000), although you can pay in kind &ndash; lino, cement and TV sets are all acceptable currencies. They all tell me the same story: those who refuse to pay up, or persuade their relatives to pay, are subjected by camp staff and trusties to &lsquo;chilling&rsquo; (being confined in an unheated space and/or forced to strip in cold weather), beatings and sleep deprivation. </p> <p class="p1">Mekhanov categorically denies all of this. &lsquo;I admit that we accept humanitarian aid, but only from official sources and in the form of TVs, DVD players, fridges and that kind of thing.&rsquo; But rank and file camp staff are more frank about the inadequacies of the system. &lsquo;There&rsquo;s nothing wrong with families wanting their husband or brother to have a few home comforts. But the camp authorities aren&rsquo;t going to organise it themselves, so they use middlemen, who ask 1,500 roubles instead of 1,000 and pocket the difference. There&rsquo;s nothing you can do about it. If it could be organised through some charity it would all be more transparent and these problems wouldn&rsquo;t arise.&rsquo; </p> <p class="p1">Mekhanov sketches a diagram of the camp&rsquo;s financial system for me. Federal Government money pays for food, clothing, heating, gas and water. The camp also earns money by selling goods produced by prisoners in its various workplaces: sewing, carpentry and furniture workshops and agricultural projects - raising chickens, quail and pigs. This money goes to pay wages for the camp&rsquo;s 200 free workers, taxes, expenses such as light bulbs, broadband connection and petrol, and also wages for the inmates (pathetically low once the government has taken its 75% for their upkeep). &lsquo;All this adds up to an outlay of 2.5 million roubles a month&rsquo;, he says. &lsquo;We can&rsquo;t produce enough to cover our costs. That&rsquo;s why the prisoners are paid so little. I have to work like a businessman. The government is supposed to provide us with contracts, but they don&rsquo;t. I look around and find us business partners myself, but not everyone is going to want to deal with a prison camp.&rsquo;</p> <h3><strong>'A prison, not a kids&rsquo; summer camp&rsquo;</strong></h3> <p class="p1">Mekhanov is angry with the protesters. &lsquo;We&rsquo;ve been through it all &ndash; beatings, torture, extortion. It&rsquo;s nothing new. The public prosecutor&rsquo;s office did an inspection and couldn&rsquo;t find any evidence. Now they&rsquo;ve handed the investigators another 130 statements with the same old demands. Somebody can&rsquo;t get parole. Somebody is just fed up. Somebody can&rsquo;t solve the crossword&rsquo;. He also denies the accusations of violence. &lsquo;The prisoners are subjected to physical force only as far as the law allows, and that very rarely&rsquo;. I remind him about Andrey Skvortsov, who during the negotiations with the protesters shouted to his mother, &lsquo;That officer sitting beside you &ndash; he&rsquo;s the one who beat me&rsquo;. I think of the photos in my bag of Aleksandr Dmitriyevsky after a beating, given to me by his mother together with an official complaint, where he wrote, &rsquo;They extort money, beat you with rubber truncheons and wooden mallets, torture you with tear gas, sexually abuse you using both their cocks and any other instruments lying around.&rsquo; </p><p class="p1">&nbsp;</p><p class="p1"><strong><br /><img alt="" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/RIAN_01296810.LR_.en_.jpg%20" width="460" /></strong></p><p class="image-caption">A number of prisoners climbed up onto the camp roofs and unfurled banners such as 'People help us'! to their relatives below Photo (c) Ria Novosti. All rights reserved</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">&lsquo;There&rsquo;s a large scale investigation going on here right now&rsquo;, continues Mekhanov. &lsquo;And they haven&rsquo;t found any physical marks on any prisoner. What beatings are they talking about?&rsquo;</p> <blockquote><p>&lsquo;<em>The mistake the camp management made was to allow the prisoners to organise. So they united against the administration and its &lsquo;bitches&rsquo; &ndash; the guys who collected the money - held their protest and got what they wanted. What can I say - good for them!&rsquo;</em></p></blockquote> <p class="p1">The camp director believes that the inmates only started demanding an end to beatings and extortion when they realised that the administration would not meet their initial demands &ndash; for an improvement in conditions and the release of prisoners from solitary confinement. &lsquo;They got worried and decided they needed to justify themselves&rsquo;, he tells me. The demands, he says, are unrealistic. But the ordinary camp employees believe that the administration has lost control. &lsquo;The mistake the camp management made&rsquo;, says human rights monitor Nikolay Shchur, &lsquo;was to allow the prisoners to organise. So they united against the administration and its &lsquo;bitches&rsquo; &ndash; the guys who collected the money, held their protest and got what they wanted. What can I say - good for them!&rsquo; Meanwhile the regional Federal Penitentiary Service is afraid that the tactic of non-violent protest might spreads to other penal establishments. </p> <p class="p1">Mekhanov is unconcerned about a criminal charge by local investigators,of increasing the powers of his security staff. &lsquo;We had order here&rsquo;, he says. &lsquo;There&rsquo;s a wave of disorder spreading all over Russia at the moment, &lsquo;democracy&rsquo; is the new buzzword, it&rsquo;s &lsquo;rights for everyone&rsquo;. There are all these human rights people everywhere, the public prosecutors are also cleaning up their act, everybody is fired up, everybody has lots of rights. Of course we were strict here &ndash; it&rsquo;s a prison, not a kids&rsquo; summer camp! Of course they didn&rsquo;t like it, and they were encouraged by all these ONK people, who immediately and unreservedly took their side, wrote down all complaints, put video of them on the internet.&rsquo;</p> <h3><strong>Son of the regiment</strong></h3> <p class="p1">While Mekhanov and I were talking in his office on the evening of 28th November, he had a phone call from the camp. The last inmate had come off his hunger strike. Mekhanov hung up, obvious relief on his face. I asked him how someone gets to be in charge of a prison camp at the age of 30. &lsquo;You just have to want it,&rsquo; he replied. </p> <blockquote><p class="p3">'In seven years Mekhanov rose through the system, from a junior officer to the head of a camp. His colleagues put his meteoric career down to a combination of reforms in the system, purges of personnel and personal ambition.'</p></blockquote><p class="p3">Mekhanov was born in Norilsk, in the north of Russia, but by his teens was already in Kopeysk, where his father worked at IK-6 as a driver. He graduated with distinction from Kopeysk&rsquo;s Mining Economics College and in 2000 applied for a place at a Police Academy. But on the evening when he was packing to go and take the entrance exam, his father died. The 17 year old, in a state of shock, failed the exam. The then management of IK-6 took him under its wing, sent him off to study at the Ministry of Justice&rsquo;s own training college in Perm, and then gave him a job. In 2002 the 19 year old lieutenant was in charge of a brigade of 100 prisoners. &lsquo;The prisoners were two or three times older than me, I was like their son, but I was also their commander.&rsquo; After a year he was transferred to an operational division to do intelligence work. In seven years Mekhanov rose through the system, from a junior officer to the head of a camp. His colleagues put his meteoric career down to a combination of reforms in the system, purges of personnel and personal ambition. </p> <p class="p3">Mekhanov is not much loved, to put it mildly, by human rights monitors and prisoners&rsquo; families. Shchur and his Public Monitoring Committee colleagues hold him chiefly to blame for the protest. As the monitor says, all the money goes through Mekhanov, and the person directly responsible for its collection is Viktor Timashov, the former deputy governor of Chelyabinsk, convicted of bribery offences. &lsquo;The number of times we have told the Federal Penitentiary Service to get rid of Mekhanov!&rsquo; says Shchur. &lsquo;But there they call him a son of the regiment and say they trained him themselves. They are turning IK-6 into a torture camp &ndash; they transfer the most brutal guards here from other camps.&rsquo; And one prisoner&rsquo;s sister, who spent two nights standing under the camp fence during the protest, told me that &lsquo;Mekhanov personally beats prisoners up, in the same office as he receives families in&rsquo;.</p> <p class="p1">After the protest, the only media people allowed into the camp were a film unit from Vesti-24 TV. I buttonholed Mekhanov at the evening roll-call, and we went up to the staff canteen, which reminded me of an expensive Chelyabinsk restaurant, complete with built in aquariums, beautifully laid tables and a menu in a burgundy coloured leather cover. Staff meals are prepared by an elderly Georgian prisoner: &lsquo;an excellent cook&rsquo;, says Mekhanov. &lsquo;He&rsquo;s a member of the Guild of French chefs.&rsquo; The chef comes over and bows to the camp director. &lsquo;What would you like this evening? Venison, duck?&rsquo; Mekhanov orders foie gras, I choose chicken soup, and the assistant to the Ombudsman who is with us asks, as a joke, for quail and the chef respectfully inclines his head. &lsquo;They were on the menu yesterday, but not today. However, if you can wait we&rsquo;ll see to it.&rsquo; The chef has four more year to serve in IK-6.</p> <p class="p1">After seven o&rsquo;clock we went over to the barracks area. The camp bathhouse was wreathed in steam, the prisoners on the parade ground were lightly dusted with the snow that was falling. In ten minutes time Mekhanov would have to address the inmates directly for the first time since the protest. He lit a cigarette, sheltering in the porch of the visitors&rsquo; building. &lsquo;So, what should I say?&rsquo; he asked me. &lsquo;OK. Imprisoned citizens, I demand that you observe the camp rules &hellip; I ask you to&hellip; I call on you. I call on you to observe the camp rules. And then I repeat it. Should I put some music on for them? To cheer them up&hellip;&rsquo; &rsquo;You could do&rsquo;, I say. Mekhanov starts going through the songs on his iPhone. &lsquo;What about &ldquo;We&rsquo;ll get high today, me and you&rdquo;? &lsquo;Why don&rsquo;t you put on &ldquo;It&rsquo;s good to travel the world, a toffee in your cheek&rdquo;?&rsquo; I suggest. We went out into the frost, past the inmates lined up in their brigades. I thought I&rsquo;d offer some advice. &lsquo;Perhaps you could say that they&rsquo;ll get tea and cigarettes soon. Or that you&rsquo;ll switch on the payphone tomorrow.&rsquo; &lsquo;No&rsquo; he says, &lsquo;that&rsquo;s horse-trading&rsquo;. &lsquo;Well, you have to put something human in at the end&rsquo;, I insist. </p> <p class="p1">Mekhanov climbed up onto the first floor of a small building and switched on a loud-hailer. &lsquo;Imprisoned citizens. I call on you to observe camp rules. I call on you to observe camp rules. From today the parcel posting and delivery office will be working again as normal. Other matters are also being looked at. Thank you for your understanding. Goodnight.&rsquo; 1600 prisoners, who two days earlier had grabbed the attention of the whole of Russia, listened to him attentively. He came down again: &lsquo;Well, what do you think? I added the bit about understanding. Was it OK?&rsquo;</p> <p class="p1">A longer version of this article was originally published in Russian at <a href="http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2076394">Kommersant</a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Moscow Center for Prison Reform (MCPR),<a href="http://www.prison.org/english/mcpr.htm"> website</a></p> <p>Judith Pallot and Laura Piacentini, (2012) Gender, Geography and Punishment: The Experience of Women Prisoners in Carceral Russia. Oxford University Press</p> <p>Laura Piacentini (2004), Surviving Russian Prisons: Punishment, Politics and Economy in Transition. Willan 2004</p> <p><a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/10/inside-russias-prison-system/263806/">Inside Russia's Prison System</a>, Photographs of life under incarceration, from Moscow to Siberia, The Atlantic, oct. 18th, 2012</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/svetlana-reiter/russias-dead-end-prison-system">Russia&#039;s dead end prison system</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/email/western-eye-on-russia-s-prisons">Western eye on Russia’s prisons</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/zoya-svetova/prison-as-death-sentence">Prison as a death sentence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/cover-up-in-russias-prisons">Cover-up in Russia&#039;s Prisons</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mary-mcauley/children-in-prison">Children in prison</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-loushnikova/outcasts-%E2%80%94-inmates-of-black-eagle">Outcasts — inmates of the Black Eagle</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-loushnikova/vyatlag-gulag-then-and-now">Vyatlag: the Gulag then and now</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-loushnikova/gulag-doctor">The Gulag doctor </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/aleksei-tarasov/siberia%E2%80%99s-crying-cannibal-when-business-became-war">Siberia’s crying cannibal: when business became war </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/susanne-sternthal/let-history-be-judged-lesson-of-perm-36">Let history be judged: the lesson of Perm-36</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> oD Russia oD Russia russia russia & eurasia Olesya Gerasimenko Human rights Justice Tue, 04 Dec 2012 15:35:30 +0000 Olesya Gerasimenko 69746 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Believing in tears: a snapshot of new Russian documentary cinema https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/masha-karp/believing-in-tears-snapshot-of-new-russian-documentary-cinema <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/anton2.jpg" alt="" width="160" /></p><p>The Sixth London Russian Film Festival, which took place in London earlier this month, introduced 11 new feature films and 7 documentaries to the British public. Masha Karp went to watch the documentaries, hoping to see a true picture of Russia today.</p> </div> </div> </div> <h3><strong>Politics, go away! </strong></h3> <p><strong>&lsquo;Winter, go away!&rsquo;</strong> is a film about last winter&rsquo;s protests in Moscow, made by a group of&nbsp; young filmmakers, students of&nbsp; the&nbsp; well-known&nbsp; documentary film director, <a href="http://russia-ic.com/people/general/r/614">Marina Razbezhkina</a>. From the title, you expect it to be about the end of a political frost, and hopes for a new &lsquo;thaw&rsquo;: the tempestuous entry of the young onto the political scene. But as their kaleidoscope of creative street actions, performances and&nbsp; happenings evolves &mdash; a young man walking on stilts, another young man writing &lsquo;Putin&rsquo; with his head after dipping it into red paint , two young men&nbsp; wearing&nbsp; white masks on public transport&nbsp; &mdash; you start thinking that perhaps the title refers more to the traditional folk ritual of burning the effigy of winter to greet the spring than to anything political. The film tries so hard to avoid getting involved in politics that it almost succeeds.</p> <p>True, at events such as the &lsquo;White Ring&rsquo;, when people wearing white ribbons held hands along the Sadovaya Ring and passing cars also decorated with&nbsp; ribbons honked in solidarity, there was an element of carnival and celebration, and the documentary succeeds in conveying that. But the sense of outrage at Putin&rsquo;s announcement&nbsp; of his imminent return as president, the actual trigger of the protests, is missing, as is disappointment with the fraud that was the&nbsp; parliamentary elections in December.</p><p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/6lPj-Csbnk0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> </p><p class="image-caption">'Winter go away' was sponsored by Novaya Gazeta, a fiercely independent and oppositionist newspaper, yet the film itself largely avoids politics.&nbsp;</p><p>What adds to the impression of&nbsp; a performance is that quite a few episodes in the film feel as if they had been staged, rather than spontaneously caught on camera. Conversations between two alcoholics&nbsp; against the background of a red banner; a young man striding through the streets of Moscow, a book in&nbsp; his hands, reading&nbsp; Mandelstam poems aloud; a conversation between an activist and a foreigner who simply can&rsquo;t make sense of why the activist has been arrested &hellip; Presumably these were meant to make the film more entertaining,&nbsp; but eventually they undermine its documentary nature and therefore its credibility.</p><blockquote><p>'[&lsquo;Go Away, Winter&rsquo;] tries so hard to avoid getting involved in politics that it almost succeeds'&nbsp;<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p></blockquote> <p>The film was commissioned by the liberal Novaya Gazeta newspaper. According to one of the newspaper journalists, the young film-makers &nbsp;were at first very apprehensive, fearing that the &lsquo;opposition&rsquo; paper would put pressure on them. But it did not, and the students felt free to film whatever they found interesting. The result is an apolitical film about political events.</p> <p>We do see the organisers of the rallies, but do not really hear their speeches or learn about their motives. Some are given more attention than others. There are several conversations about <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-loginov/navalny-effect">Alexey Navalny</a>, where people express their misgivings about his nationalist or even anti-Semitic views, but no one speaks in his support and no attempt is made to ask Navalny himself about his views. Indeed, interviewing is something that the film-makers are obviously keen to avoid. Instead there are scraps of conversations, bits of interviews given to the media &ndash; an impressionistic approach rather than an analytical one. But&nbsp; the film-makers&rsquo; impressions do also include the forces that confront the protesters. And it is here that the political reality of Russia suddenly comes to life.</p> <p>OMON riot police &mdash; &lsquo;cosmonauts&rsquo; as Russians sometimes call them owing to the similarity of the helmets &mdash; are seen throughout the film. They are filmed either simply standing shoulder to shoulder in long lines, immobile but intimidating, or, more often, beating, pushing, dragging&nbsp; or carrying protesters to their&nbsp;vans.</p> <blockquote><p><em>'A man is giving an interview explaining his views on the presence of observers at polling stations. Suddenly, in mid-sentence, he is snatched, beaten up and dragged away. The same thing&nbsp; is happening all around him.'&nbsp;</em></p></blockquote> <p>After one rally the OMON surrounds a podium where opposition leaders are standing and starts pulling them down by grabbing&nbsp; their legs. In a matter of seconds, with all the leaders taken away, two sturdy, well-wrapped up policemen jump on the empty podium and strut around it with a proprietorial air. In another episode a young girl is dragged away and her friends can&rsquo;t find out where she is being taken. A man is giving an interview explaining his views on the presence of&nbsp; observers at polling stations. Suddenly, in mid-sentence, he is snatched, beaten up and dragged away. The same thing&nbsp; is happening all around him.</p> <p>The brutality, the violence of their actions is beyond belief. Whatever the makers of &lsquo;Go Away, Winter&rsquo; think about politics, they got this message across to a foreign audience simply by filming what was happening around them. Perhaps too, it might be an eye-opener for those British commentators, who tend to explain the limited number of protests in Russia by a convenient belief that &lsquo;Putin is still the most popular politician there&rsquo;.</p> <h3>Fighting for Anton: autism in Russia</h3> <p>Among the other documentaries shown in London, two definitely stand out above the rest - they are <strong>&lsquo;Anton is Right Here&rsquo;</strong> (2012) by Lyubov Arkus&nbsp; and <strong>&lsquo;Milana&rsquo;</strong> (2011) by Madina Mustafina. Both are made by women; both are about children and moreover, children in exceptional circumstances; both concentrate on one particular child and through the fate of this child let us catch a glimpse of the country where they live .</p> <p>The film critic Lyubov Arkus has been following Anton, a boy with autism, for four years. She started out with a purely journalistic interest in him but&nbsp; soon realised that if she did not help him, nobody would. &lsquo;I thought I had a project&rsquo;, - she says in the off-screen commentary, - &lsquo;and it turned out I had a boy&rsquo;. Lyubov is not seen much in the film &ndash; in fact we hear her cameraman Alisher Khamidkhodzhaev shouting: &lsquo;Lyuba, leave the shot!&rsquo;, but she is a constant presence, her voiceover restrained and personal as she becomes part of the story she is telling.</p> <blockquote><p><em>'Autism is not a fully recognised diagnosis in Russia. There are no official programmes, no education for parents, no support. Children with autism are seen as a burden on the state and often a burden for their family.'</em></p></blockquote> <p class="NormalWeb">Anton first attracted Lyubov Arkus&rsquo;s attention when she discovered a poignant essay written by him, which started &lsquo;People can be kind, happy, sad, nice, good, grateful, big, small. They walk , run, jump, talk, look, listen&hellip;.&nbsp; and ended People will endure a bit more. People draw and write. They work in the forest. Chop, saw, and burn wood. People still say hello to each other, talk, jump, run. People are final. People fly.&rsquo; The essay, it transpires, was written seven years earlier, and&nbsp; since then Anton has stopped writing and practically stopped talking. When Lyubov Arkus meets him, he prefers staying in bed and&nbsp; avoids any contact with the outside world.. </p> <p class="NormalWeb">Autism is not a fully recognised diagnosis in Russia. There are no official programmes, no education for parents, no support. Like other children&nbsp; who are different from their peers &ndash; with learning disabilities, say, or Down&lsquo;s syndrome &ndash; children with autism are&nbsp; seen as a burden on the state and often a burden for their family. Some parents are courageously struggling on their own, but the number of options open to them is painfully limited. &nbsp;<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="NormalWeb">Arkus begins her search for ways to help Anton by contacting Alisher Khamidkhodzhaev, one of Russia&rsquo;s best cameramen (he worked, for example, with Alexey German Jr on his film &lsquo;A Paper Soldier&rsquo;) and&nbsp; together they take the boy&nbsp; on a trip to Lake Onega. Although Anton at this point only shouts incomprehensibly and walks away from the camera as fast as he can,&nbsp; they manage to coax him into writing&nbsp; words on the wet sand, which seems to make him happy. Then they discover a school where children with learning difficulties are taught crafts. A serious young woman sitting under a portrait of Putin explains that they can&rsquo;t accept Anton because he can&rsquo;t concentrate on practical activity. Writing is not considered practical enough.</p><p class="NormalWeb"> <iframe width="460" height="259" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/Y_6ifqqHJn4" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/anton2.jpg" alt="Anton" width="460" height="300" /></p> <p class="image-caption">'Anton is Right Here&rsquo; follows the life of a talented autistic boy in a country that does not properly recognise autism.&nbsp;It&nbsp; took director Lyubov Arkus 6 years to film. Trailer in Russian&nbsp;</p><p class="NormalWeb">The only remaining alternative is a psychiatric-neurological institution, an internat, a place with only two nurses for dozens of residents and where everyone is medicated with drugs that keep them quiet, but destroy their bodies, which inevitably leads to early death. The camera does not linger in the internat for very long, but it is obvious that leaving Anton there&nbsp; is out of the question.&nbsp; Meanwhile the need to find a place for him becomes urgent as his mother is diagnosed with cancer &ndash; Anton&rsquo;s parents are divorced and she has been bringing him up on her own.</p> <blockquote><p class="NormalWeb">'The only remaining alternative is a psychiatric-neurological institution, a place with only two nurses for dozens of residents and where everyone is medicated with drugs that keep them quiet, but destroy their bodies, which inevitably leads to early death.'</p></blockquote> <p class="NormalWeb">By a stroke of luck Lyubov Arkus manages to&nbsp; place Anton in the Norwegian-run &lsquo;<a href="http://www.camphillsvetlana.org/pages/norwegian_village.html">Svetlana</a>&lsquo; community &ndash; a wooden house in a village where each boy has a room of his own,&nbsp; where meals are quietly&nbsp; eaten together at a big wooden table, where teenagers are busy chopping and carrying wood&nbsp; or cutting vegetables. Anton makes a friend, David, a volunteer who looks after him and teaches him lots of useful skills. How much the boy changes there, how happy he looks, how willingly he does all the household chores, how tenderly he embraces David! The camera follows all these transformations and the incredulous audience is wondering: what&rsquo;s going to happen now? Will the Norwegians be expelled from Russia as foreign agents? No, the disaster is not political &ndash; just David leaves the place and the loss is so great for Anton that he can&rsquo;t cope with it. He starts misbehaving, running away from &lsquo;Svetlana&rsquo; and, as the remaining volunteers can&rsquo;t give him the love he needs, they want him out.</p> <p class="NormalWeb">Anton then becomes Arkus&rsquo;s sole responsibility. And not only Anton &ndash; his dying mother stays with her for the last year of her life. Remarkably, there is not a single moment in the film where its director can be suspected of boasting of her generosity &ndash; on the contrary, she mentions it only in passing, as something that happened almost beyond her will. In a&nbsp; state that does not want to do anything for&nbsp; its weakest and most vulnerable citizens, it is only human love that can save them. That is the conclusion that&nbsp; Lyubov Arkus comes to in her film.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>By the end of the film Arkus&rsquo;s love for Anton has accomplished something previously unthinkable &ndash;&nbsp; Anton&rsquo;s father and his second wife take Anton to live with them. &lsquo;I am sure&rsquo;, she says in her commentary, &lsquo;that it was not only because we had collected money to help them buy a new house, but because&nbsp; they saw Anton with new eyes after watching our footage of him&rsquo;. And indeed we see Anton&rsquo;s stepmother crying as she watches Anton filmed at different times of his life &ndash; at lake Onega, in &lsquo;Svetlana&rsquo;, at home where he looks at old family photographs and talks about them&hellip; Just look at these children, the film-maker seems to be saying to Russian society &ndash; look at each of them and you will see a human being who is as much in need of love as you are. </p> <blockquote><p>'In a state that does not want to do anything for&nbsp; its weakest and most vulnerable citizens,&nbsp; it is only human love that can save them -&nbsp; that is the conclusion that Arkus comes to in her film.'&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>The film &lsquo;Anton is Right Here&rsquo; has&nbsp; attracted some attention in Russia for both its artistic and social value. It now has its own <a href="http://anton-film.ru/">web-site</a>. In December Lyubov Arkus will found a new organisation for people with autism and she is also running a campaign to&nbsp; increase the benefits to parents of autistic children from 8,000&nbsp; roubles per month to 40,000 - the sum that <em>internats</em>&nbsp; are getting per child now&hellip;</p> <h3><strong>The invisible camera</strong></h3> <p>&lsquo;Anton is Right Here&rsquo;&nbsp; is an example of the active interference of a camera in its hero&rsquo;s life. In <strong>&lsquo;Milana&rsquo;</strong> the camera may as well be invisible, for all the attention paid to it. The young film-maker Madina Mustafina (a student of Marina Razbezhkina and&nbsp; one of the directors of &lsquo;Go Away, Winter&rsquo;) spent three weeks with a family of alcoholics who live rough in the woods near <a href="http://aboutkazakhstan.com/karaganda-city">Karaganda</a>, in Kazakhstan, filming&nbsp; them and their&nbsp; seven year old daughter Milana. Either her adult characters were too drunk to care or the director came to some arrangement with them, but in the film they don&rsquo;t seem to mind her presence at all. They eat, drink, fight and talk - exclusively in obscenities: they are incapable of constructing a single sentence without them, even when talking to the child. This would not have been particularly interesting in itself, were it not for the pretty and tough little girl, who is the focus of the director&rsquo;s attention.</p> <p>Milana, as is common with children, fully accepts the life she lives, because this is the only life she knows. She enjoys running around, playing with the dogs and joining&nbsp; in the simple entertainments of the grown&ndash;ups around her &ndash; giving milk to a hedgehog or varnishing the nails of a dog. However, her life has a much darker side to it. Her mother, although still quite young, is completely ruined by her alcoholism and&nbsp; beats Milana whenever she can find a pretext for it. Then she herself becomes the victim of her husband &lsquo;s violence&nbsp; and the little girl, obviously used to these family rows, implores her father&nbsp; not to damage her mother&rsquo;s face, as &lsquo;she has to go out later&rsquo;. She follows the quarrel&nbsp; between her parents and raises the alarm when her mother threatens to hang herself: Milana urges the other adults around to stop her and is the first to run after her.</p><p> <img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/MIlana.jpg" alt="Milana" width="460" height="310" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Milana is the 7-year old eponymous heroine of Madina Mustafina's documentary film.. She is the victim of family violence, but is even more afraid of being taken away to an orphanage.&nbsp;</p><p>This wild and violent life can&rsquo;t help affecting the&nbsp; girl &ndash; she re-enacts her mother&rsquo;s cruelty by torturing a bird, subconsciously imitating the&nbsp; intonation her mother uses when scolding her, and&nbsp; she is about to set the dog on her victim when&nbsp; her mother unexpectedly intervenes.</p> <p>The &lsquo;fly-on-the-wall&rsquo; approach obviously presented some problems for Mustafina.&nbsp; She has admitted in an interview that she felt awful, filming Milana being beaten without interfering, but she thought she had to show things as they are. And her film certainly has a convincing credibility, not only thanks to her shooting method, but also to a clever and apparently seamless compilation of episodes in Milana&rsquo;s life.</p> <blockquote><p><em>'Milana re-enacts her mother&rsquo;s cruelty by torturing a bird, subconsciously imitating the intonation her mother uses when scolding her, and she is about to set the dog on her victim when her mother unexpectedly intervenes.'&nbsp;</em></p></blockquote> <p>Milana&rsquo;s parents had set only one condition for Mustafina before she started filming &ndash; not to bring the police, who could take the child away from them and put her in an orphanage. And yet towards the end of the film the&nbsp; word &lsquo;orphanage&rsquo;&nbsp; suddenly comes up as a distant threat. At some point surely the seven year old Milana will need to go to school&hellip; For anybody who has any idea of post-Soviet children&rsquo;s homes there is absolutely no certainty that the freedom-loving child of the woods would be happier in the formal, indifferent and in some ways also cruel environment of an orphanage than with her completely worthless parents,&nbsp; whom she loves dearly and who in their own way are definitely attached to her.&nbsp;&nbsp; Mustafina does not try to solve this problem; she just hopes to make orphanages the subject of her next film.</p> <h3><strong>Squaring the circle</strong></h3> <p>After the desperate complexity of the problems dealt with by Lyubov Arkus and Madina Mustafina, the predicament faced by parents and children in Valery Shevchenko&rsquo;s short documentary &lsquo;Inside a Square Circle&rsquo; seems almost trivial. After a children&rsquo;s New Year party in the Kremlin, about five thousand children aged between about 6 and 12 emerge from the building and anxious mums,&nbsp; dads, grannies and other relatives, who have been waiting in the cold, need to spot their offspring in the crowd. There is again a heavy police presence, but this time it&rsquo;s not &lsquo;cosmonauts&rsquo;&nbsp; but friendly city police&nbsp; who joke with&nbsp; parents while explaining&nbsp; the procedure through a loudspeaker. The families line up in a square formation behind barriers, and the 5000 children are led round and round in a circle in front of them while they shout out their child&rsquo;s full name to draw his or her attention. &lsquo;Don&rsquo;t just shout &lsquo;darling&rsquo; &ndash; a policeman recommends &ndash; &lsquo;you don&rsquo;t know how many of them will come to you&rsquo;.</p><p><iframe src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/27716138?badge=0" width="460" height="345" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/inside_a_square_circle.jpg" alt="squaring_circle" width="460" height="340" /></p> <p class="image-caption">&lsquo;Inside a square circle&rsquo;, a film directed by Valery Shevchenko, shows almost five thousand children experiencing real human drama while leaving the Kremlin's annual New Year party. Trailer in Russian.</p><p>The jocular atmosphere rapidly gives way to fear, panic and hysteria, among both children and parents. &lsquo;Mummy, find me!&rsquo; a small weeping boy is desperately shouting into his mobile. &lsquo;Where are you?&rsquo; Parents tell children off for not understanding their directions; policemen bar the way for over-reacting parents who try to break through the&nbsp; barrier. &lsquo;I will never go to this party again!&rsquo; swears a child, tired of walking round and round and failing to see his mum&hellip;</p> <p>Surely, unlike the&nbsp; complex social issues of other films, this one is purely one of logistics &ndash;&nbsp; the problem could have been easily solved by splitting the 5000 young party-goers&nbsp; and their parents into &nbsp;groups by some simple means such as colour-coding their tickets, or not letting them out all at once &hellip; But although the Kremlin New Year party takes place with clockwork regularity, nothing has yet been thought of to try and avoid all&nbsp; the unnecessary worries, panic-attacks, quarrels&hellip; This obviously does not seem to be of importance.</p> <p>The age-long indifference of official Russia to human pain of any kind&nbsp; has found its expression in a wonderfully precise old saying: &lsquo;Moscow does not believe in&nbsp; tears&rsquo;. These recent documentaries, following the age-long tradition of Russian literature, again and again challenge the wisdom of this approach.</p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>London Russia Film Festival 2012, <a href="http://academia-rossica.org/en/film/russian-film-festival/russian-film-festival-london-2012">website</a></p> <p><a href="http://articles.latimes.com/1993-07-11/news/mn-12086_1_documentary-film">Russian Documentary Filmmakers Become Victims of Their Own Success</a>, by DONALD SMITH, Los Angeles Times, July 11, 1993</p> <p><a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009/nov/05/segei-dvortsevoy-pawel-pawlikowski">Sergei Dvortsevoy: the man who films goats</a>, by Pawel Pawlikowski, Guardian, Nov. 5, 2009</p> <p>Kinoglasnost: Soviet Cinema in our Time (Cambridge Russian Paperbacks), by Anna Lawton, Cambridge University Press, 1992, 304 pages</p> <p>The Imperial Trace: Recent Russian Cinema, by Nancy Condee, Oxford Univerisity Press, USA, 2009, 360 pages</p> <p>Dziga Vertov: Defining Documentary Film, by Jeremy Hicks, I. B. Tauris, London, 2007, 274 pages</p> <p>Kino-Eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov. By Dziga Vertov, University of California Press, 1985, 408 pages</p> <p><a href="http://www.rusfilm.pitt.edu/2010/index.php">Russian Film Symposium</a>, University of Pittsburgh, web site</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><strong>The 6th Russian Film Festival in London. Films reviewed by Masha Karp:</strong></p> <p>'Winter go away' (2012), directed by Nadejda Leont’eva, Elena Khoreva, Denis Klebleev, Dmitry Kubasov, Askold Kurov, Anna Moieenko, Madina Mustafina, Zosia Rodkevich, Anton Seregin, Aleksei Zhiriakov</p> <p>'Inside a square circle' (2011), directed by Valery Shevchenko,</p> <p>‘Anton is Right Here’ (2011), directed by Lyubov Arkus</p><p>‘Milana’ (2011), directed by Madina Mustafina.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mumin-shakirov/russian-documentary-film-extinct-or-almost-interview-with-vitaly-mansky-0">Russian documentary film: extinct, or almost. Interview with Vitaly Mansky</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mumin-shakirov/russian-documentary-film-extinct-or-almost-interview-with-vitaly-mansky-par">Russian documentary film: extinct, or almost. Interview with Vitaly Mansky. Part two</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/olga-sherwood/russian-documentary-endangered-breed">The Russian documentary: an endangered breed </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/frederick-bernas/kiss-and-run-documentary-casts-fresh-light-on-pro-putin-youth-movement">Kiss and run: documentary casts fresh light on pro-Putin youth movement</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mumin-shakirov/gastarbeiters-and-kino-russias-invisible-class-gets-its-big-break">Gastarbeiters in kino: Russia&#039;s invisible class gets its big break</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/email/dissenting-blockbusters">Dissenting blockbusters</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/prof-ian-christie/meeting-with-andrei-konchalovsky-part-i">A meeting with Andrei Konchalovsky: Part I</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/prof-ian-christie/meeting-with-andrei-konchalovsky-part-ii">A meeting with Andrei Konchalovsky: Part II </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arts-institutions_government/russian_film_3726.jsp">Kinoeye: Russia&#039;s reviving film industry</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-rulyova/poetry-in-pictures-film-about-joseph-brodsky">Poetry in pictures: a film about Joseph Brodsky</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/email/the-vertical-of-power-grabs-russian-cinema">The ‘vertical of power’ grabs Russian cinema</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/email/battle-for-russia-s-past">Battle for Russia’s past</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Russia Culture russia & eurasia russia film Masha Karp Cultural politics Fri, 30 Nov 2012 17:04:09 +0000 Masha Karp 69658 at https://www.opendemocracy.net