Monday, June 18, 2018

New Russian Film Asks: ‘Has the Entire Siberian Forest Been Sold to the Chinese?’


Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 18 – Russians, especially those living east of the Urals, have long been worried about Chinese economic penetration which includes taking water from Lake Baikal, mining gold and coal, and even opening Chinese factories in places where Russian ones have ceased to operate.

            But now there is a new worry: the sell-off of much of the forested land to China, Beijing’s harvesting of almost all of it, and a looming environmental disaster as a result of the destruction of animal habitats and drainage systems, something compounded by Moscow’s recent announcement that it lacks the money to fight fires in forests that are left.

            The Chelyabinsk news agency reports that the Chinese role is especially troubling and is receiving more attention as a result of a film by writer Pavel Pashkov of the Russia Taiga expedition showing what is going on (lentachel.ru/news/2018/06/14/prodali-kitaytsam-ves-sibirskiy-les.html reposted at kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5B26AC0754996).

                The basic conclusion Pashkov reaches is that “practically all the forest business now belongs to the Chinese Peoples Republic” rather than to anyone or any firm within the Russian Federation.   “In fact, he says, “Siberia has become a raw materials supplier for China” and that means, he suggests, that “de facto Siberia already belongs to China.” 

            His investigation shows, the writer says, that the Chinese not only own the forests but have created a completely Chinese processing system so that few if any Russians in the region benefit.  Not surprisingly, Pashkov says, “the population of Siberia is categorically against this Chinese advance and against the wholesale cutting down of the forests.”

            Tragically, he continues, the Russian authorities “prefer to keep quiet about the problem and to ignore the opinion of the citizenry.” They simply pocket the money the Chinese pay and look away. They don’t even take action when Chinese firms and tourists push Russians out of the way near Lake Baikal.

            According to Pashkov, this problem has assumed “threatening proportions.”  Moreover, as bad as it is in the Chelyabinsk area, everything suggests that in the Far East of Russia, “the situation is still worse.”  (He plans to travel there later this year and produce another film about the destruction of “the unique eco-system” of Russia east of the Urals.

            He urges Russians throughout the country to demand Moscow get involved to stop this disaster before it is too late. “If we talk about the defense of Russia’s interests in the situation with regard to Crimea,” Pashkov concludes, “then we should be shouting at the top of our lungs about the Siberian problem,” the Chinese are creating.

            While it is unlikely he is going to win his campaign, Pashkov has made a decision which others seeking to change Russian policy are increasingly taking: they are making films that can be shown on line and win support that way, as Aleksey Navalny and others have. At the very least, that strategy ensures that far more people know about a problem that does any other.

Five ‘Only in Russia’ Stories


Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 18 – So far this week – and it is only day two! -- the Russian media have featured at least five “only in Russia” stories, some of which are funny at one level but most of which are deeply troubling at another.  The five are:

·         An official who stole at least 26 million rubles (430,000 US dollars) from government accounts has been sentenced … “to six years of freedom,” in the words of the MBK news agency, yet another consequence of the Putin regime’s taking care of its own while repressing and stealing from the population at large (mbk.media/region/ministr-i-svyazi/).

·         A group of Russian scholars argues in new research that feminism is a major cause of the growth of crime among Russian.  By adopting feminist ideas, the researchers say, women are in many cases led down the garden path to criminal activity (versia.ru/rossijskie-yuristy-poschitali-feminizm-prichinoj-rosta-prestupnosti).

·         A conference of nationalistically inclined linguists and sociologists say that Russia need to adopt as soon as possible “a clear ideological doctrine on language” so that it will be in a position to defend and promote Russian against other languages foreign and domestic (ruskline.ru/news_rl/2018/06/18/rossii_srochno_nuzhna_yasnaya_yazykovaya_ideologiya/).

·         The backers of the acting head of the Altai Republic have made a very public promise to him that they will secure him “120 percent of the votes” in the upcoming election. That figure exceeds even what the leaders of some of the North Caucasus republics have been promised and received (regnum.ru/news/polit/2432932.html).

·         Punitive psychiatry, one of the most horrific elements in the late Soviet system, is making a comeback under Putin; but now the jailors in white have come up with a new diagnosis to be used against those who engage in dissent. In Soviet times, they were said to suffer from “sluggish schizophrenia.” Now, they are said to display an overly developed interest in “unhealthy activity” (svoboda.org/a/29293375.html).

As Kremlin has No Plan for Development, Russians Must Plan for Survival, Inozemtsev Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 18 – Not only has the Kremlin violated the social contract it had with the Russian people by its campaign against social services and now pensions, but it has demonstrated that it has no plan for the development of the country, according to economist Vladislav Inozemtsev.

            And consequently, he continues, Russians must make plans for their own survival either by saving for their own retirement because Moscow isn’t going to provide for them or by choosing to be trained in jobs available in other countries because they are unlikely to be available in Russia (echo.msk.ru/blog/v_inozemcev/2223660-echo/).

            Those are two of the clearest ways to send a vote of no confidence in the Putin regime and to protect Russians if not their government or even in the short term at least their country from the increasingly hard times which lie ahead, without putting those who take them at risk of repressive reprisals by the authorities.

            “However economically justified the decision to increase retirement ages may have been, one cannot consider it anything other than a violation of that ‘social contract,’ which had existed between the people and the powers that be,” Inozemtsev says.  In fact, this decision hits hardest at the group most loyal to the regime.

            That includes those who have reached 55 or 60 and who are anticipating living on pensions. Most of these people do not have good jobs now; and almost all of them will face serious difficulties in finding new jobs if that becomes necessary as the powers raise the retirement age.

            Moreover, it is important to keep in mind that boosting the retirement age is only one of the things the powers that be have done to attack this cohort: “over the last four years, the Kremlin has practically completely demolished the most essential element of the Russian system of social security.”

                “However,” Inozemtsev says, “one must give our powers their due: they know well their people, which is interested in staying glued to the television and watching young millionaires run around a field, and their opposition which is occupied today with nominating candidates for deputies, mayors and governors … and not reacting in any way to what is taking place.”

            But “when the championship is over” and the election campaigns end, Rusisans are going to have to reflect on “what has happened this summer.”  And in Inozemtsev’s opinion, there can be “only one conclusion: In Russia, there are no communists and liberals … there is only the powers that be” who see it as their right to rob the population blind.

            Any thinking person should react to this situation with distrust. Most Russians are going to be “too cowardly” to get involved in active protests or even to vote against the incumbents in the privacy of the voting booth.  But that doesn’t mean they can’t issue a vote of no confidence in the regime.

            They can do so by saving for their own retirement, and if younger, they can train for jobs for which there is “demand abroad.”  If the powers do not have respect for the people, then the people ought not to have respect for them, and if the powers don’t have a development strategy, then their subjects must do what they can to adopt a realistic strategy of survival.”