Squandering Its Way to Superpowerdom

“Squandering”: Did the US Secretary of State Grasp the Russian Approach to Budget Spending?
The Kremlin Accused the State Department of Tactlessness and Unprofessionalism, Yet Pompeo’s Remarks Were on the Mark
Yevgeny Karasyuk
Republic
December 13, 2018

padrino.jpgVenezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino gives his thumb up as he sits on the cockpit of a Russian Tupolev Tu-160 strategic long-range heavy supersonic bomber after it landed at Maiquetia International Airport, north of Caracas, on December 10, 2018. Courtesy of Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images

Russian’s decision to send strategic bombers on a junket to an airport near Caracas elicited a curious reaction from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who publicly expressed his pity for Russian taxpapers, whose money the Kremlin, habitually disregarding the costs, has been spending on its geopolitical moves.

“The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer,” Pompeo wrote.

The Russian Foreign Ministry responded by calling Pompeo’s statement “utterly unprofessional” and even “villainous.” Pompeo’s remarks, which the Kremlin, in turn, dubbed “inappropriate” and “undiplomatic,” were apparently really lacking in nuance: the hardships of Russians, fortunately, cannot yet be compared with the suffering of Venezuelans. But, hand on heart, was Pompeo so wrong when he talked about the losses to the Russian federal budget and lack of oversight?

Russian society has an extremely vague notion about how much the Kremlin’s expansionism has ultimately cost the country. According to calculations made by IHS Jane’s at the outset of Russia’s operations in Syria in autumn 2015, Russia could have been spending as much as $4 million a day. Later, the Yabloko Democratic Party, which is not seated in the Russian parliament, estimated the Kremlin had spent a total of 108–140 billion rubles [between $1.6 and $2.1 billion] on Syria. A more accurate assessment would be difficult to make. Experts doubt that anyone, including the Finance Ministry, keeps tabs on such expenditures. Thus, nobody knows the real cost of Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, argues the Gaidar Institute’s Military Economics Laboratory.

The budget’s fading transparency has been a trend in recent years. In 2016, secret and top-secret allocations accounted for 22% of total federal budget expenditures, a record for the entire post-Soviet period, and much higher than secret allocations in comparable countries, according to RANEPA’s March 2015 report on the Russian economy.

Quite naturally, this state of affairs has not improved the quality of the state’s financial decisions. In terms of effective state spending, Russia ranked nineteenth in a new rating of twenty-five countries, compiled by the Higher School of Economics using data from the World Bank and OECD. Since they are not priorities for the current regime, problems with child mortality and life expectancy were among the reasons Russia ranked so low in the survey: the government spends more on the army than on healthcare—4.3% of GDP versus 3.8% of GDP, respectively. In these circumstances, the chances the Kremlin’s strategic projects in the Middle East and Africa (e.g., the Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Mozambique) will be decently funded are always much greater than the national healthcare project, which stipulated increased government spending on cancer treatment. The government nixed the plan over summer.

Since it remains largely Soviet in spirit, Russia’s foreign policy has been categorically blind to history’s lessons. The Soviet Union’s exorbitant geopolitical ambitions and support for fringe regimes around the world left the country with a legacy of mostly toxic multi-billion-dollar debts. The process of writing them off has been disguised as a form of international charity or, speaking diplomatically, official development assistance (ODA). According to RANEPA, writing off the debts of developing countries accounted for 35% of all such “international aid” last year or $425 million. It has been the Russian government’s usual way of doing business. Previously, the Russian government wrote off the debts of Nicaragua ($6.3 billion), Iraq ($21.5 billion), North Korea ($10.9 billion), Syria ($9.8 billion), Afghanistan ($11 billion), and Cuba ($29 billion), among other countries. Venezuela risks joining this sad list. Over the past twelve years, Russia has invested a total of $17 billion in the country.

Russia’s Expenditures on Official Development Assistance (Excluding Humanitarian Aid), 2005–2017, in Millions of Dollars. Sources: OECD, Russian Finance Ministry. Courtesy of Republic

Since it was paid for by the Russian federal budget, which has been running a deficit for the last seven years, Russian officials probably did not see the transatlantic flight of its strategic bombers as too expensive. On the contrary, they saw it as a flashy display of Russia’s military prowess and proof of its influence in the region. However, the government of Nicolás Maduro signed off on the stunt. Subject to growing pressure from creditors and an angry, desperate population, it lives day by day. In all likelihood, it will soon collapse, leaving behind a mountain of unpaid bills and unfulfilled obligations to its allies. If this is the case, can we evaluate the Russian government’s action better than the tactless Mike Pompeo did? Probably not.

Translated by the Russian Reader

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Russian Communism Today (Let Jesus into Your Heart)

Jesus Christ, the first Russian Communist

Putin Asked to Deploy Missiles in Cuba
TV Zvezda
April 27, 2016

The Communist Party of the Russian Federation has proposed deploying Russian missiles in Cuba, reports RIA Novosti.

Communist Party MPs Valery Rashkin and Sergei Obukhov have sent the relevant appeal to President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

The CPRF members have suggested reopening the Lourdes SIGINT Station and deploying missiles on the Island of Freedom to protect the interests of Russian and its allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

The MPs thus propose responding to a Reuters report that the US plans to deploy HIMARS rocket launchers in southeastern Turkey in May.

“First of all, we are talking about deploying Russian rocket launchers of a similar or even greater range in Cuba. Also, an asymmetrical response to Washington by way of reactivating the SIGINT station in Lourdes seems appropriate,” the MPs write in their appeal.

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Zyuganov Considers Christ “First Communist in History”
TASS
April 20, 2016

The head of the CPRF Central Committee called the feast of Christ’s Resurrection an “amazing, wonderful holiday” that “is in no way at odds with workers’ solidarity.”

CPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov confirmed that the Communists do not intend to forego involvement in May Day rallies despite reports that they might be cancelled in a number of Russia’s regions due to Easter.

“Official processions are cancelled, but as for public organizations, no Aksyonov [head of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov] can cancel them,” Zyuganov told TASS.

He recalled that May 1 is International Workers’ Day, a holiday that “came into being in defense of working people’s rights,” and is an official holiday in the Russian Federation.

“And no administrator can cancel this holiday,” argues the leader of the Communist Party.

“Workers have no other way to defend their rights except solidarity. They have every right to gather on May 1 and voice their opinion. We are going to be involved in these events, and our Crimean organization will also be involved,” said Zyuganov.

As for Orthodox Easter, which this year also falls on May 1, Zyuganov called the feast of Christ’s Resurrection an “amazing, wonderful holiday” that “is in no way at odds with workers’ solidarity.”

“Because Christ was the first communist in modern history. He raised his voice for orphans, for the needy, for the sick, for the wretched, for everyone who had it bad. In this sense, if he were alive, he would be marching with us,” said the head of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.

Earlier, the head of the Republic of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov* said that Crimean authorities would not be holding official May Day demonstrations and rallies due to Orthodox Easter.

“This year, May Day coincides with the Easter holiday. Many of us will be spending the night before May first in churches at Easter services, and many will be celebrating the Holy Resurrection of Christ with their families. The authorities of the Republic of Crimea are not planning May Day demonstrations and rallies this year. There will not be any official celebrations. But people may decide for themselves how they will celebrate the Holiday of Spring and Labor,” Aksyonov said in a statement released by his press office.

The media have also reported the trade unions of Surgut and Tambov have decided not to hold May Day events for the same reason. May Day rallies in Russia have usually been organized by trade union organizations, mainly the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russian (FNPR), which has nearly twenty million members.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Image courtesy of Jesus Wallpaper

 

Sergey Aksyonov has led efforts to stamp out dissent among ethnic Crimean Tatars over the annexation, saying “All activities aimed at non-recognition of Crimea’s joining to Russia and non-recognition of the leadership of the country will face prosecution under the law and we will take a very tough stance on this.”

Aksyonov says homosexuals “have no chance” in Crimea, and that “we in Crimea do not need such people.” He also promised that if gays tried to hold public gatherings, “our police and self-defense forces will react immediately and in three minutes will explain to them what kind of sexual orientation they should stick to.”

Source: Wikipedia