Russia’s actions are as much an enigma as ever - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

Wandering the information superhighway, he came upon the last refuge of civilization, PoFo, the only forum on the internet ...

Political issues and parties in Europe's nation states, the E.U. & Russia.

Moderator: PoFo Europe Mods

Forum rules: No one line posts please. This is an international political discussion forum, so please post in English only.
#1069700
To understand Russia’s network of coercion, bribery and retribution, we need expert help, as its actions are as much an enigma as ever, writes John Lloyd - Dec 8 2006



http://www.ft.com/cms/s/aeafc3a0-85c6-11db-86d5-0000779e2340.html


Blat brothers
By John Lloyd

Published: December 8 2006 16:12 | Last updated: December 8 2006 16:12

In a broadcast in 1939, Churchill told his audience: “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” This, mind you, was when the Soviet Union was under the thumb of the Communist Party and the Communist Party was led, with no fear of competition, by Joseph Stalin. Now, when there is no Party spine holding the place together, and its leadership, for all its authoritarianism, cannot control the many layers of authority, military and police forces and secret service covens, its actions are as much an enigma as ever.


There has been progress: the enigma is not further wrapped within a dogma. Russia’s democratic development has never, in the past 15 years, been other than rackety and it is now part-suppressed: yet the freedoms of belief, speech, press, travel, consumption and choice of work are real, if partial and damaged. Russia is not lost to freedom, because where only the idea existed under Party rule, now some of the practices have taken root.


But they have not taken root in ways recognised by John Stuart Mill or approved by Friedrich von Hayek. Russia has ever been the land of two steps forward, one step back (or vice versa), and it is harder than ever to know which way the steps are tending. We need guides. Fortunately, at this time of alarmed pessimism on Russia’s future and our relations with it, such a one, as careful as it is brilliant, has appeared. It will not tell us who killed Alexander Litvinenko, but it can tell us a good deal about - as its title plainly promises - How Russia Really Works.


Alena Ledeneva has in her decade of study and teaching in Britain produced a wealth of material on post-Soviet corruption, business crime, informal links and blat - the intricate network of favours, coercion and solidarity which has underpinned pre-Soviet, Soviet and post-Soviet life. In this latest piece of work, she gives an account of the new mysteries, riddles and enigmas of post-Soviet Russia, some of these just like the old, but most creative adaptations.


Post-Soviet Russia has been, and in many places remains, a more Darwinian place than it was in late-Soviet times. Party control of all aspects of life was generally predictable. When I lived there, an acquaintance spent an evening detailing for me a scale of crimes and punishments which one could, with some precision, expect: an over-critical article could result in the withdrawal of foreign travel privileges for a year or so; the signing of a protest could mean suspension from work without pay; open contempt for the country’s leader, the loss of a job...and so on. In Putin’s Russia, there are also crimes and punishments which are not on the statute book - but as Ledeneva reveals, these are bewildering in their novelty. They include the instance of a woman who, appointed as director of a bank branch and anxious to be honest in her work, ended up on the wrong side of the complex strategies played out by her superiors and their associates, and found herself sentenced to two years’ hard labour.


Party rule was stable, if masked under formal state institutions: the new democratic institutions are not. Justice was, in the end, Party justice: now, it might be fair or it might not. The multiplicity and confusion of laws means that the authorities always have some excuse for punishment; and these authorities are themselves under constant threat of retribution - “no equality in the face of the law can be observed, laws are not enforced universally and little respect is paid to the law...state institutions are used selectively and manipulatively to keep businesses off balance, whereas businessmen protect themselves from the exploitative system by layers and layers of clever scheming...organisations continue to rely on clandestine means of accounting in which information diverges substantially from that required for external use... the state reserve[s] the possibility of an assault on the oligarchs, thus creating informal leverage against them.”


In the universe described by Ledeneva, its masters are those with the connections, cunning and courage to fashion fiefdoms of profit and influence, strong enough to treat with the state and its agencies - especially the omnipresent secret services, whom the new masters often suborn or employ. The victims are those who do not understand the new rules, and above all those who try to work decently: she has some terrible case histories of such people. Here, every freedom is attended by its subversion - as seen in the operations of a freed press, whose underpaid journalists are then enrolled by the oligarchs and the secret services in endless Russian-doll strategies of kompromat - the building and destroying of reputations, the creation of scandals, the stoking of panics.


From this murk spring the alliances, feuds and plots that often end in murder: of bankers, businessmen, politicians, journalists and secret agents themselves - though usually in Russia, and not in London sushi bars, and usually with a bullet, not with rare radioactive material. All of the circumstances of the murder of Litvinenko, we assume, are meant as messages. But from whom, to whom, with what consequences are likely to remain riddles within mysteries wrapped in enigmas. Who crossed whom, when and on what cause becomes a matter of attempting to untie Gordian knots, there being no Alexander the Great to slice through them. And let us hope there will not be: Stalin was one such knot-slicer. Out of the murk, sooner or later, might come the institutions that really can sustain the liberty that most Russians still want.


[email protected]


“How Russia Really Works: The Informal Practices That Shaped Post-Soviet Politics and Business” by Alena V. Ledeneva is published by Cornell University Press at $22.95.


Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
By kami321
#1069773
I don't understand when foreigners talk about Russia sa being an "enigma". For me, such behavior on the part of the westerners is quite enigmatic. You could call the mystery around Litvinenko to be enigmatic, but what is there so enigmatic about Russia as a state?
User avatar
By Vladimir
#1069959
No foreigner will ever fully understand Russia.
By Lost Angel
#1070114
It is very simple - the deal is that they're used to see Russia as either a socialist state (which they thought was communist actually, which it wasn't) or as a wasteland, to loot. Now, however, it is acting in its own interests under a quite sound logic as a matter of fact - help Russia - it'll help you, you don't help Russia - it'll cut all support from you and might even hurt you. This more recent behaviour of Russia, however, is beyond coherence to the west much like it is the most difficult for one to say if one is ugly or pretty, when looking at one's own reflection.
By Shade2
#1071403
I don't understand when foreigners talk about Russia sa being an "enigma"

Exactly, we Poles have hundreds of years of experience with Russia and its ambitions and desires are quite obvious:Ruthless imperialism and exploitation of others.
Russia isn't interested in money, culture, its image. Only in power.
By Dnepr
#1073318
Only in power.



And that is different from every other super power HOW?
User avatar
By Kiroff
#1073363
Because you know, it's Russia. And Russia is supposed to be evil and stuff.
By Lost Angel
#1073371
Because you know, it's Russia. And Russia is supposed to be evil and stuff.
But fear not - the great and mighty Poland with the help of noble and courageous Georgia will expose it eventually and carry out the rightful judgment... ,)
By Shade2
#1073404
And that is different from every other super power HOW?

Russia isn't a superpower. It is just a failed state desperate to use nationalism and threats to remain afloat-similiar to North Korea for example.
By Dnepr
#1073439
Russia isn't a superpower. It is just a failed state desperate to use nationalism and threats to remain afloat-similiar to North Korea for example.


A superpower is a state with the ability to influence events or project power on a global scale. In modern terms, this may imply an entity with a huge economy, a large population, and strong armed forces, including air and space power and a considerable arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.


1. Ability to influence events or project power on global scale
Check

2. Huge Economy
Check and growing, wasn't Moscow's budget bigger then Poland's?

3. Large Population
Check, and since last census, death is lower, birth is up

4. Strong Armed Forces
Check, if you deny this, you're an imbecile who has chicken brains

5. Air and Space Power
Check

6. Weapons of Mass Destruction

Check...

Sure fits an American definition of Superpower
By Shade2
#1073468

2. Huge Economy
Check and growing, wasn't Moscow's budget bigger then Poland's?

Who said Poland is a superpower ? Russia's budget is smaller then the budget of Mexico btw.

1. Ability to influence events or project power on global scale
Check

North Korea-Check.


3. Large Population
Check, and since last census, death is lower, birth is up

Sudan-Check.



4. Strong Armed Forces

In what ? Drinking or killing each other in barracks ?


5. Air and Space Power
Check

http://www.physorg.com/news4646.html
MOSCOW, June 21 (AFP) - A Russian Molnia-M rocket carrying a military communications satellite crashed Tuesday in Siberia shortly after takeoff, Russian news agencies reported.
The rocket, launched at 0049 GMT from the northern Plessetsk space centre, suffered engine failure and fell onto a forest in the Tyumen region of Siberia, Ria-Novosti agency said quoting a space agency source.
The rocket was to have placed satellite Molnia-3K into orbit an hour after launch.


http://www.space.com/news/russia_spysats_011004.html
However with the collapse of the Soviet Union and its huge defense budget, Russia found itself unable to replenish failing or outdated satellites. Although Russian space officials do not provide exact details about its military space assets, the available information suggests that at the time of the September 11 attack on the United States, Russia space forces operated only one single imaging spy satellite, Cosmos-2377, also known as Cobalt. Launched on May 29, 2001, from Russia's northern Plesetsk Cosmodrome, the spacecraft is believed to be at the end of its life span.



http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060301f ... imacy.html
Even as the United States' nuclear forces have grown stronger since the end of the Cold War, Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal has sharply deteriorated. Russia has 39 percent fewer long-range bombers, 58 percent fewer ICBMs, and 80 percent fewer SSBNs than the Soviet Union fielded during its last days. The true extent of the Russian arsenal's decay, however, is much greater than these cuts suggest. What nuclear forces Russia retains are hardly ready for use. Russia's strategic bombers, now located at only two bases and thus vulnerable to a surprise attack, rarely conduct training exercises, and their warheads are stored off-base. Over 80 percent of Russia's silo-based ICBMs have exceeded their original service lives, and plans to replace them with new missiles have been stymied by failed tests and low rates of production. Russia's mobile ICBMs rarely patrol, and although they could fire their missiles from inside their bases if given sufficient warning of an attack, it appears unlikely that they would have the time to do so.

The third leg of Russia's nuclear triad has weakened the most. Since 2000, Russia's SSBNs have conducted approximately two patrols per year, down from 60 in 1990. (By contrast, the U.S. SSBN patrol rate today is about 40 per year.) Most of the time, all nine of Russia's ballistic missile submarines are sitting in port, where they make easy targets. Moreover, submarines require well-trained crews to be effective. Operating a ballistic missile submarine -- and silently coordinating its operations with surface ships and attack submarines to evade an enemy's forces -- is not simple. Without frequent patrols, the skills of Russian submariners, like the submarines themselves, are decaying. Revealingly, a 2004 test (attended by President Vladimir Putin) of several submarine-launched ballistic missiles was a total fiasco: all either failed to launch or veered off course. The fact that there were similar failures in the summer and fall of 2005 completes this unflattering picture of Russia's nuclear forces.

Compounding these problems, Russia's early warning system is a mess. Neither Soviet nor Russian satellites have ever been capable of reliably detecting missiles launched from U.S. submarines. (In a recent public statement, a top Russian general described his country's early warning satellite constellation as "hopelessly outdated.") Russian commanders instead rely on ground-based radar systems to detect incoming warheads from submarine-launched missiles. But the radar network has a gaping hole in its coverage that lies to the east of the country, toward the Pacific Ocean. If U.S. submarines were to fire missiles from areas in the Pacific, Russian leaders probably would not know of the attack until the warheads detonated. Russia's radar coverage of some areas in the North Atlantic is also spotty, providing only a few minutes of warning before the impact of submarine-launched warheads.

Moscow could try to reduce its vulnerability by finding the money to keep its submarines and mobile missiles dispersed. But that would be only a short-term fix. Russia has already extended the service life of its aging mobile ICBMs, something that it cannot do indefinitely, and its efforts to deploy new strategic weapons continue to flounder. The Russian navy's plan to launch a new class of ballistic missile submarines has fallen far behind schedule. It is now highly likely that not a single new submarine will be operational before 2008, and it is likely that none will be deployed until later.


6. Weapons of Mass Destruction

Check...

Syria, Pakistan, North Korea-check.
By Lost Angel
#1073496
Dnepr, don't waste your time on loonies :)
They have immunity to proofs and arguments and will only throw crap newspaper articles at you. :)
By Shade2
#1073525
Btw do you know men in Bangladesh live longer then in Russia ?
By ZeusIrae
#1073528
He may be a loony but he's right Russia isn't a superpower,if it is then most western european countries are too.I am sure you will agree with me that France and UK aren't superpowers?
By Dnepr
#1073545
Dnepr, don't waste your time on loonies Smile
They have immunity to proofs and arguments and will only throw crap newspaper articles at you. Smile


I noticed as much. :hmm:
By Lost Angel
#1073609
He may be a loony but he's right Russia isn't a superpower,if it is then most western european countries are too.I am sure you will agree with me that France and UK aren't superpowers?

Well, the status of Russia is ambiguous to me for a number of reasons:
1 - it can be mobilized into a very strong war machine in a very short time (proven historically on many accounts)
2 - huge territory + resources + now growing efficiency in their use
3 - political/economic importance and power (particularly evident in cases of muscles flexing with crappy little countries at the borders and political debate around Iran, North Korea, trade with Western Europe).
4 - I do realize the country is pretty chaotic and way behind schedule at upgrading (speaking in computer slang analogies).

So in this sense it is an enigma.
France and UK are not superpowers anymore, which is why the banding together of EU - Western Europe is not strong enough by itself on the global scale, however, if I were to define major political blocks, I'd go with:
USA, China, Russia, EU, India(?), Arab lands (which USA almost dealt with).
Of this China is strong and quiet, Russia is ambiguous, USA is brute and powerful, India is weak, but strong in numbers and very flexible, Arab lands have oil and internal unity through religion.
That's about how I see it.

I noticed as much. Hmmm
I am just wondering how long they'd last once nobody notices them. :) *me is a kind person*
By Wolf
#1073804
Lost Angel

in cases of muscles flexing with crappy little countries at the borders


hehe.. You call other suvereign countries and the whole nations crappy little countries :D I understand (you have proven that many times on this forum) that you don't know any better but I still would like to remind you that such approach is a mistake and it doesn't make you any wiser, kinder or humane.. nope. it only proves your chauvinism, lack of education, arrogance, impoliteness..

Try to be a little bit better than that. Respect is not a shame. It's a necessary attribute for a man, a gentleman, if you've ever thought of becoming one ;)

sorry for this off-topic.
By Lost Angel
#1073852
hehe.. You call other suvereign countries and the whole nations crappy little countries
each according to their behavior - crappy in fact is a mild way to put it for some and Russia is no flexing its muscles towards countries that did not behave so as to earn this label - you have clearly been insulted although I have not pointed your country out specifically.

I understand (you have proven that many times on this forum) that you don't know any better
Don't superimpose your complexes onto others.

but I still would like to remind you that such approach is a mistake
I would hear your opinion when it would matter.

and it doesn't make you any wiser
where do you see me claiming this?

kinder
I have just about enough kindness for my needs. Neither am I attempting to become more kinds by posting in this forum.

humane
find me a vaguer term - I am not of a very high opinion of the use of "humane" - I find it hypocritical.

it only proves your chauvinism
- proves to whom? to you? why would I care?

lack of education
now how did you bring this one in? I can just as well, claim that the size of your posts clearly shows that you're gay - the same kind of argument.

arrogance
something I am proud of.

impoliteness
respect is deserved, not granted, particularly when your logorhea of trash against Russia never stops - look to your own country.

Try to be a little bit better than that.
Thank you, father, anything else I should do?

Respect is not a shame.
Lead the way, brother and maybe your country will earn it.

It's a necessary attribute for a man
you should suggest that as one of the properties of a man to the contemporary dictionaries and encyclopedias - so they'd know it too.

a gentleman
gentlemen existed during slavery - doesn't mean they had great respect for the slaves or lower classes, - some did, some didn't.

if you've ever thought of becoming one
you tell me :)

sorry for this off-topic.
if you're sorry for something - don't do it.
By Wolf
#1074236
Lost Angel

:lol: I knew it. I shouldn't be wasting my time on answering you but I'm really having fun.

If you have a couple of minutes please think how much harm has Russia done to its small neighbours (take for example Georgia) and compare it to the harm Georgia has done to Russia.

Tell me what do we owe you please, maybe then I'll understand your hatred towards us.
By Lost Angel
#1074273
If you have a couple of minutes please think how much harm has Russia done to its small neighbours

Let's see, cheaper nat. resources provision? No wait, that's not harm. Buying shit quality products noone else would buy? Nah, that's again not harm... Hmm... did Russia invade any of them? Did Russia overthrow governments there? Did Russia write laws in those countries? Nope - what's your problem?
If you are talking about Soviet Union - Russia suffered most from it and those were not even ethnic Russians steering the wheel.Russia sure hurt "its small neighbours" when it refused to buy their low quality goods and provide cheaper resources when these neighbours chose to be hostile on the level of international politics - to be expected.

(take for example Georgia) and compare it to the harm Georgia has done to Russia.
Take for example Stalin who appeared out of where? What harm did he do to Russia? To Soviet Union? To Georgia itself? Georgia is a country, however, is not significant enough to cause Russia serious harm, but its continuous slander on the international political arena is disrespectful and uncalled for to begin with - therefore the response.Same for covering up for Chechen terrorists.

Tell me what do we owe you please
you do not owe me anything and I do not want anything from you, I'd rather see our countries as prosperous friends.
maybe then I'll understand your hatred towards us.
Again cut it with self-humiliation - I do not feel hatred neither towards you, nor towards Poland, Ukraine, Moldova etc... I see what you're trying to do, what you're afraid of, where you're being brainwashed (particularly painful to see young Ukranians, who are brainwashed into self-pity and hatred instead of pride for their motherland), though this is all your internal matters. My reactions are not to the people of Georgia or Poland or Ukraine... it is to the politicians, constant slander in the press etc - I have no desire to see Russia owning any of your countries or dictating its will upon you - but neither of you will have my respect until it will be mutual. You elect your politicians - you carry the weight of their image.
Look at your own and that Polish guy's reaction some posts earlier in discussion about selling shit products to Russia - "wow, stupid Russia didn't realize they were shitty before?" instead of "We're feeling bad our product were of bad quality - we would improve them and hope for mutually beneficial trade in the future". Don't talk to me about "gentleman" issue until you behave as one. I personally once had poisoning from your wine - had 1 glass of it - been is severe pain for 24 hours - nearly burnt through my stomach - I did no harm to you - I even paid you for this crap - I will not do it again.

Yes, were wrong. Glad we agree. Heinlein was po[…]

I don’t think that is what he was referring to. I[…]

...except the evidence I already presented. If[…]

it is very difficult to determine who the stupid[…]