The 2004 poster reads "Yushchenko - the People's President." In Jan 18, 2010 Ukrainian presidential elections Mr. Yushchenko received only 6 percent of the vote.
On the one hand the stunning defeat of Viktor Yushchenko, and by extension of the whole Orange carnival, is a welcome event for Russia and for Ukraine as well. However, one shouldn't get too ecstatic because there is also a substantial potential danger ahead. The outgoing president leaves to his successor an economy in shambles, a devalued currency, a huge budget deficit and a national debt of over $33 billion. In addition, Yushchenko did all he could to divide the country's population along ethnic lines by suppressing the Russian language, building memorials and presenting national awards to Nazi collaborators and mass executioners.
In any event, whoever wins the elections on February 7 will deliver to Moscow both good and some bad news. The good news is that the new president will be more Russia-friendly, will stop talking about NATO membership, will consider extension of the lease of the Russian Black Sea Naval base at Sevastopol and will probably make a few other friendly gestures. The bad news is that none of the above is born out of deep and unselfish love for mother Russia; on the contrary, they come with an impressive price tag.
How Many Polish "Patriots" Does It Take to Screw Up US -- Russia Relations?
Americans are great fans of Polish jokes; there is a whole website boasting hundreds of them: www.polishjoke.com. Arguably the best known is the one about changing a bulb procedure (it takes at least four Poles to do that). This and other jokes on this site are pretty harmless and can be said to apply to almost any ethnic group. However, the much hyped deployment of US Patriot missiles on Polish territory next to the city of Kaliningrad to repulse potential Russian aggression could well make a worthy addition to this particular site, except that this is no laughing matter at all. Obviously, Washington needed a symbolic gesture of sorts to gild the pill of scrapping its missile-defense-shield-in-Poland plan. However, if this gesture is strictly symbolic, a more unsuitable place and time for it would be hard to find. Because whereas previously Russia was told that it had nothing to worry about BMD-wise, as the sole purpose of the system was destruction of Iranian or North Korean missiles, the Patriots are certainly intended to repulse a potential missile attack by Russia.
Wouldn't be wiser for Washington to resort to some other, more appropriate symbolism to reassure Poland, or rather its "Patriotic" leaders, and allay their fears of Russian invasion. The easiest and most obvious gesture to make would be faxing or e-mailing to all and sundry the text of Article 5 from the NATO Charter, which organization Poland has been a member of since 1999. Under this Article the entire military might of almost 30 member states, including the US and most EU countries shall be employed to come to Poland's rescue and rebuff such an aggression if it would ever take place. Isn't this enough, and why bother with Patriots then?
This publication tries to debunk some popular, but misguided, views on demographic trends in today's Russia. These consist of the perception that Russia is in a demographic "death spiral" that dooms it to national decline (Biden, Eberstadt, NIC, CIA, Stratfor, etc). Some extreme pessimists even predict that ethnic Russians - ravaged by AIDS, infertility and alcoholism - will die out as an ethnicity, displaced by Islamist hordes and Chinese settlers (Steyn, Collard).
The Myth of Russia's Demographic Apocalypse
Think again. While it is true that Russia's current demographic situation is nothing to write home about, most of the demographic trends that matter are highly positive - and there is compelling evidence that Russia can still return to a healthy, longterm pattern of sustainable population replacement.
1. MYTH: Russia is losing 750,000 of its population per year and will become depopulated within decades.
REALITY: In 1992, for the first time since the Great Patriotic War, deaths exceeded births in Russia, forming the so-called "Russian Cross". Since then the population fell from 149mn to 142mn souls. However, the rate of depopulation has slowed massively in recent years.
US-Russia Bilateral Governmental Commissions: Where Are You?
Those who feel like gloating over the difficulties America is experiencing fail to understand that many of U.S. problems are shared by the rest of the world. Therefore, it is in Russia's interests to take a dignified high road policy and to seek and find ways of helping America in solving them. The present moment is singularly auspicious for implementing real projects in the course of much hyped resetting, which, alas, cannot yet boast any tangible results.
It is well known that in the wake of the Obama-Medvedev meeting, an impressive number of 18 (!) bilateral governmental commissions have been set up to coordinate the resetting process. So far we did not hear too much about their activities or, most importantly, results, except perhaps just one, on cultural cooperation, headed by Mikhail Shvydkoi and US Undersecretary of State Judith McHale. Apparently, the other seventeen are still trying to decide what they are going to do. Don't you think it's about time you set to, gentlemen?
From left to right: Yushchenko, Timoshenko, and Yanukovych
Five years have gone by as one day. Only yesterday, it seems, we saw jubilant crowds in Kiev celebrating the victory of democracy in Ukraine. Small wonder, too -- the pro-Western Victor Yushchenko had contrived to wrest victory from his hateful namesake, pro-Russia Yanukovich. The former, cruelly poisoned (allegedly by none other than Putin), had miraculously risen from the dead, won the election and was about to guide Ukraine to a life of plenty in the European Union and NATO. The unimpeachable teaching of George Bush about the inevitable spread of democracy across the world had yet again been proved right. Besides, no less importantly, the Orange Revolution turned out to be relatively inexpensive to fund. Especially compared to the business of promoting democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, where thousands of young Americans and Europeans from NATO countries continue to die and hundreds of billions of dollars continue to be spent.
According to Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, in Ukraine the price barely came to several dozen million dollars. However, as he lacked precise statistics, the actual sum could have been considerably larger. The congressman called on the White House Administration and the US General Accounting Office to look into the Ukrainian election's cost to the American taxpayer, and what exactly that money had paid for, yet his appeals fell on deaf ears. That so greatly incensed Ron Paul that he accused the US Government of hypocrisy. On the one hand, said the congressman, we are against external interference in another state's election, but on the other we send money to Ukraine to sway the vote there.
In Russia, presidential New Year's address to the nation is traditionally aired each December 31, five minutes before midnight. Watch Dmitry Medvedev's address from December 31, 2009.
For Russia, 2009 was a pretty difficult year on the domestic front. It was saturated with severe economic and financial crises as well as horrible terrorist attacks and several man-made catastrophes. Nevertheless, the Russians not only proved once again that they can withstand disaster with dignity, but even in these most difficult times they achieved some impressive results in economic and social areas. The economy started to grow and the performance of the stock market was one of the world's best. The shops are full of goods and customers, travel abroad is on the rise, and cultural life is bustling at least in the large cities.
However, three huge and potentially devastating problems remain unresolved and actually are getting worse: poor demography, monstrous corruption, and severe alcoholism. If one compares the number of people per square kilometer in of Russia (8), the United States (50) and China (220), the picture is gloomy. Moreover, this ratio keeps changing, and unfortunately not in Russia's favor. Will the country in the years ahead have enough manpower to implement Medvedev's dreams of innovations and modernization, to serve in its army, or at least to hold on to its huge landmass?
Russia Blog's editors wish you the belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We hope the year 2010 will bring you success and significant personal and professional accomplishments. We're back to work, and, as usual, look forward to bringing you up-to-date, exciting, and unique information and commentary about Russia.
Barack Obama is not the only leader trusting in government "stimulus" to revive an economy. Prime Minister Putin has outlined his program, including a "Cash for Clunkers" program to boost sales of Russian automobiles. Apparently, no one in the Kremlin bothered to check out how well that worked in the U.S. Once the "cash" is gone, the sales drop again.
There is no theme in the Putin Plan, no sense that it's the supply side of the economy that needs to be stimulated, not the demand side. Maybe foreign investors will be impressed, but I doubt it.
The alcoholism problem is Russia is really the vodka problem--it's too inexpensive. Accordingly, President Medvedev intends to raise the price up to a minimum of three dollars a bottle, still a very low price by American standards.