Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Maintaining the Draft Will Harm Both Russian Army and Russian Economy, Sociologist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 19 – The Russian government should dispense with the mass draft because keeping it is blocking the technological advance of the armed forces and keeping those drafted from acquiring the skills needed to advance the Russian economy when they finish service, sociologist Sergey Belanovsky says. 

            This double whammy, the director of research at the Moscow Center for Strategic Planning argues, can best be avoided by ending the draft, relying on volunteers, forcing the military to modernize, and providing more training to those entering the workforce (sbelan.ru/Research-Presentations/Efficiency-use-labor-resources-in-armed-forces-of-the-Russian-Federation.pdf).

            In his 22-page study and in the summary in Novyye izvestiya today (newizv.ru/article/general/19-06-2018/sotsiolog-sohranyat-vseobschuyu-voinskuyu-obyazannost-srodni-bezumiyu), Belanovsky supports his positions with detailed sociological data about the military, the economy and the cohort of men aged 18 to 25.

            Belanovsky’s argument has been made repeatedly by Western observers and some Russian economists who note that because the Russian army has traditionally relied on numbers rather than technology, officers have less incentive to shift to labor-saving technologies that could make the military a more effective force.

            And both groups have pointed to the way in which military service, even when reduced to 12 months as now, has the effect of leaving new entrants two the workforce less prepared than they would otherwise be. In all too many cases, their military service does not prepare them for any job more technologically advanced than a janitor or guard.

            In the past and despite the recognition of the political leadership of these two factors, there are at least two reasons why the Kremlin may be more prepared to accept this argument now than in the past.  On the one hand, Putin has said he wants to end the draft and so advocates of that start with a real advantage.

            And on the other, the declining size of the draft-age cohort means that if the military continues to take large numbers out of it, this will have a serious and negative impact on the Russian economy, at the very least making it far more difficult for Moscow to pursue the economic breakthrough the Kremlin insists it needs.   

Buying Defective Russian Nuclear Technology Will ‘Kill Us All,’ Chinese Commentator Warns

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 19 –A Chinese commentator has warned that importing what he describes as low quality Russian nuclear technology will “kill the Chinese people.” Somewhat remarkably Moscow has chosen to translate this especially because it is part of a far larger pattern in which China wants Russia’s raw materials but has no interest in purchasing its manufactured goods.

            Earlier this month, Mao Chao, a Chinese commentator, says that a Russian offer to sell Beijing nuclear power technology must be rejected because it is so defective that it is likely to break down, cause an accident, and kill any Chinese living near such plants (mp.weixin.qq.com/s/1c7qqCPhPvjVZ5ZZNOlxnQ).

            That article has now been translated by the Russian Inosmi service and is currently available at inosmi.ru/military/20180618/242487820.html.  If it is taken down, as its content suggests may be a real possibility, a copy of it has been posted as well at justicefornorthcaucasus.info/?p=1251679511).

            The Chinese commentator not only talks a great deal about the Chernobyl accident but argues that Russia has made little progress since 1986 in improving safety and reliability. “If in the USSR at that time had been working Western specialists,” he says, “the Chernobyl accident might not have occurred at all and would at least have been more rapidly controlled.”

            “Although the Russians are able to build atomic power plants, their technological level is insufficiently advanced. All Russian enterprises included in the 500 best,” Mao says, “are oil or finance companies.  Not one of them is an industrial producer.” That says it all, the Chinese writer continues.

            “The technological level of Russian industry is very low, and its products are distinguished by their low quality.” That is true in the defense industry from tanks to aircraft to aircraft carriers, the commentator says. None of those things is world class as recent events have shown.

            He adds: “In view of the low quality of Russian production, countries wishing to purchase it ought to think twice, especially if one is talking about equipment for atomic power stations.”  There, the use of Russian products “could put at risk the lives and security of the people.”

            Wouldn’t it be a better idea not to buy from Russia, the Chinese author says, and instead choose to purchase equipment from countries whose industrial producers operate at a more advanced level and can guarantee greater reliability and safety? Indeed, he says, “China has already brought Russia enough profit.”

            And then Mao concludes that “such a narrow-minded individual as Putin who is capable only of secret furthers can survive by selling oil to China. That’s enough: we must show Russia that we will not allow Russia technology to kill our people.”

            A new study by the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service concludes that “China has been refusing to purchase goods in Russia” other than raw materials, thus suggesting that Mao’s comments are far from an isolated view in China and that Moscow is going to have a hard time selling more there (finanz.ru/novosti/aktsii/kitay-otkazalsya-pokupat-v-rossii-nesyrevye-tovary-1027170183).

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.