Thursday, December 9, 2010

Russian Swagger is Back?

The below comments from a correspondent were sent in response to a StratFor piece, “Russian Swagger is Back,” that I can’t pull up. But I thought they were of stand alone interest.

My biggest concern: If Russia comes apart, how do they control their nukes and keep them from terrorist hands?

If you logged on for today's Political Digest, it's below. Scroll down! ~Bob.

Russia has some positive momentum at the moment, but remember what I have said for the many years I have been involved in and out of Russia— within ten to twenty years the infrastructure (water, electricity, gas and oil, etc.), which is in deplorable condition even today, will bring Russia to its knees. The cost to redo the existing system will be far higher than Russia will ever be able to pay, despite their oil and other precious metal reserves. At the moment Russia is more ‘smoke and mirrors’ than a real threat to the remainder of the world. World Cup in a decade??? BIG DEAL! That action on the part of FIFA was a politically corrupt slap in the face of the United States. – LtCol Wayne Babb, USMC (Ret.)

*****

As much as it may pain me to say this, Russian Swagger is a giant load of crap. Little did Wikileaks know that they actually gave Russia a helping hand with staying relevant, Putin getting interviewed by Larry King, flashing the name in world headlines. The rest of the world often has a general idea of what is going on in Moscow, but has no idea what is going on outside of Moscow beltway (the 4th one... traffic is so horrible -- they've built 2 beltways in the last 20 years and building another one). Russia is good at flexing muscles, flying a fighter jet here and there... in reality it is desperately trying to hold on to what it once was and unfortunately will not be ‘it’ again anytime soon. Here are a handful of countless issues that Russia HAS to deal with, but is either pretending that it isn't happening or is so out of control that it's easier to just let the nature do its work:

1. Corruption - there is no ‘law abiding citizen’ concept in Russia, because to live there... you have to play by its rules...and to play by its rules you have to do things ‘on the side’. You can't escape it. When I was taking a ride on a trolley bus in Moscow back in May and tried to pay the bus fare, the driver reminded me, that it'll cost me 5 rubles less to ride it. He felt he was doing me a favor. I save 5 rubles, driver pockets the rest, transit authority receives none... and if you ask for a ticket, they'll look at you like you are crazy... and that of course is extremely small scale. Just imagine - EVERYONE who can steal — steals!.......and if they can't they'll find a way.

2. High Mortality rate - 1 Russian born for every 6 Russians dead? We are going extinct. Rural Russia? Whole villages are disappearing from the face of the earth simply because people are dying. 149 million in 1992, 140 million in 2010. That's 9 million people – Chicago and suburbs....gone! In 18 year! That's a lot of people!!! Our mortality rate is higher than in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Somalia... you get the picture. Why are we going extinct? Poor health due to environmental factors, alcohol, drugs, crumbling Soviet healthcare. Almost a quarter of a million people get murdered in Russia every year— another 50,000 commit suicides. Another 50,000 die in traffic accidents. 20,000 people a year die of drug overdose alone!!! Average age of the person who dies due to drug overdose— 26! Speaking of....

3. Drug Abuse/Smoking/Alcohol— 3% of all Russians are on drugs. Mostly between ages 16-35. 65% of all men, and 35% of all women in Russia smoke. Virtually nothing is being done about it. No wonder our life expectancy on average is 59 years old, and getting worse.

4. Infrastructure - Virtually no investment have been done in the infrastructure in the past 20 years. It's falling apart. Literally.  While they are able to maintain it in Moscow, the rest of the country isn't so lucky.

5. Roads - There are 10 times more vehicles in Russia than there were 20 years ago.... and there were double the roads back then, over what we've got now. With virtual collapse of the majority of the mass transit systems – Russian roads simply can't accommodate all of the drivers... and you can't solve this problem by building more roads. They choke up. It took me 8 hours to fly from Washington, DC to Moscow.... and 9 more hours to ride 180 miles from Moscow to my hometown.

6. There is no real middle class in Russia – you are either really, really rich. Or really, really poor... and guess what... really, really poor hate the really, really rich. So much for the unity of the people.

7. Crumbling Social Security – they steal from it too.... and its resources are depleted. One trillion rubles deficit.

Some other things that come to mind... organized crime, Russian military, environment (we proudly hold 5 spots in the list of 10 most polluted places of earth... and Moscow is on the list of the dirtiest cities on Earth, right next to Burkina Faso and Mozambique capitals, crumbling education.

I think it's not a matter of ‘if’ Russia will be brought down to its knees... I is which one of the things listed will do it sooner... pretty painful synopsis from someone who lived there 2/3rds of their entire life... but it’s an unfortunate reality. What Russian Swagger???”  -- Misha Kolyadov (LtCol Babb’s Russian-born stepson.)


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