Thursday, April 19, 2018

Russia Moving Rapidly Back to Socialism with State Now Controlling More than 60 Percent of Economy


Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 19 – Even as the government talks about the temporary or partial nationalization of Rusal (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5AD858D2DBA7E), Dmitry Pristanskov, head of the State Property Agency, has made one of the most false declarations ever about the Russian economy, the Telegram channel SerpomPo says.

            According to Pristankov, almost everything that can be privatized has been and the government is prepared to continue that process to the end. But in fact, analysts say, the share of the economy controlled by the state has increased from 25 percent in 1998 to more than 60 percent now and continues to go up (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5AD859EDB1133).

            As a result, the analysts at SepomPo say, “in the 21st century, Russia de facto has turned back to socialism with the state dominating the economy.  It may even be time to think about a new ‘voucher privatization’ given how much belongs to the state” and how the government acknowledges that scheduled privatization efforts have been put on hold.

            In the last year alone, they say, there hasn’t been a program of privatization but rather one of re-nationalization whatever the government says.  The government has taken over three major private banks, the Magnit retail trade network, Peresvet Bank, two oil companies as well as other firms. 

            Consequently, Pristankov’s words, undoubtedly uttered to please those above him, can be ignored as completely false. Russia is experiencing “a powerful process of the nationalism of everything.” Saying anything else is like calling black white or white black, and that is just what officials are now doing.

Ukraine to ‘Leave’ CIS in Same Way Georgia Did, ‘Izvestiya’ Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 19 – Ukraine will leave the Commonwealth of Independent States in the same way Georgia did, dropping its membership in the Russian-dominated organization of former Soviet republics but continuing to honor various agreements it has reached with that group of states, according to today’s Izvestiya.

            Citing unnamed sources in Kyiv, Aleksey Zabrodin and Dmitry Laru, two journalists at the Moscow paper say that the Ukrainian authorities are doing exactly what Georgia did earlier. They note that Kyiv has not officially dropped its membership and that CIS officials expect it to develop a relationship with the organization even after it formally leaves.

            Since 2014, Ukrainian officials have not taken part in CIS-wide activities, they say; but at the same time, Kyiv has continued to honor most of the agreements it signed with the organization; and Moscow thinks that it will likely continue to do so just as Georgia has done (iz.ru/732785/aleksei-zabrodin-dmitrii-laru/gruzinskii-stcenarii-dlia-kieva).

            According to CIS officials, Ukraine in recent months has been trying to provoke the organization to take the kind of action against Kyiv that could be used to justify a harder break. But the CIS, almost certainly at Moscow’s order, has refused to be drawn, forcing Kyiv to come up with its own post-membership arrangements.

            At present, the two journalists say, Kyiv is following the Georgian “scenario,” planning to quit the organization but “remain a participant in certain agreement which were obligatory for members of the CIS.” That is what Georgia has done in the case of 34 agreements on a wide variety of issues, including railway operations.

            (The Izvestiya article doesn’t note, but after the three Baltic countries recovered their independence in 1991, they too retained their membership in the railway commissions that Moscow describes as CIS-based even though the three formerly occupied republics have never joined the Commonwealth.)

                Many of the agreements Moscow describes as CIS accords in fact are typical of relations among countries in various regions, including such things as mutual recognition of diplomas and rail transportation. That these are likely to be retained will be presented by Moscow as showing that Kyiv has not made a clean break with the CIS.

             Ukraine has already been on the way out of the CIS since Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014. It has refused to pay its membership dues or to take part in official meetings. In 2015, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said that the CIS does not serve Ukrainian interests, although it still uses the free trade arrangements among members. 

Russian Foreign Ministry Says London Behind Murders of Rasputin in 1916 and Paul I in 1801

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 19 – The difference between outrageous satire and simple reality is rapidly breaking down in Vladimir Putin’s Russia: Today, Maria Zakharova, the official spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry not only accused the United Kingdom of being “the world record holder” as far as genocide is concerned but of being complicit in the murders of Rasputin and Paul I.

            These accusations about murders that occurred in 1916 and 1801 are on the official site of the Russian ministry (mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3178301) and have already attracted attention (svobodaradio.livejournal.com/3477116.html and newsru.com/russia/19apr2018/zakharova.html).

            In Soviet times, communist propagandists sometimes made outrageous claims such as that “Popov invented baseball,” but these were quickly dismissed for the absurdities they surely were. Tragically, as the line between truth and falsehood is obliterated in many countries and as the media rewards the most outrageous suggestions, that is less likely in this case.

            But it says something profoundly disturbing that the official spokesperson for the foreign ministry of a nuclear power should engage in such outrageous and baseless suggestions and ever expect to be taken seriously again.  The histories of these two murders, one a hundred years ago and the other more than two hundred, are well-documented.

            Unfortunately, there are people in Russia and the West who will say that this is one version of what happened and that it must be put alongside all the others instead of being rejected for what it is, an outrageous lie about the past to weaponize those events for a current political struggle.

            And it highlights something else: the Western media in some sense has brought this on itself by confusing balance with objectivity, insisting on reporting all sides of stories as if they were equally worthy of attention rather than approaching claims with some measures of the truth they contain or not.

            There are limits to this, of course. Few would suggest that Nazis should be given equal time when people are talking about the Holocaust; but tragically, one can be certain that many in Russia and some in the West will now insist that Zakharova’s outrageous claims be treated as one among many.