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Re: a piece on Russia

Released on 2012-02-29 11:00 GMT

Email-ID 5431298
Date 2009-10-01 18:56:18
Very good article Veni!
I am currently working on a series going through Russia's plans to change
their economy and how it is going to fall out on the domestic side of
politics (within Russia's clan war). We are also about to publish our 4th
quarter forecast starting next week. I'll send you a copy of it when we

Veni Markovski wrote:

Hi, Lauren.

Thought you may be interested in reading this small piece of mine on


If you are coming to DC, please, feel free to get in touch.

*How soon is the next Chernobyl?*

/Russia faces big hurdles and problems; it has no adequate partners in
the west. Can we change this?
Will the US support President Medvedev in his efforts to modernize the
largest country on the planet?/

In the last few weeks Russian President D.A. Medvedev made some news in
the USA. First, on Sept. 10 he published on his site an article, "Go,
five days later he gave an interview

to Fareed Zakaria for CNN. Both were discussed in length, many political
observers are spending a lot of air time, trying to explain what Mr.
Medvedev had in mind.

Some people believe that Mr. Medvedev is genuine in his desire to
improve Russia. Some are scared by the thought that Russia could be

*The West's fear should not be from a strong, but from a weak Russia* -
engaged in local ethnic conflicts, attempting to maintain its current
nuclear arsenal, and running the old and unsafe Soviet industry
facilities. The tragic disaster at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric
plant in August 2009 should ring a bell not only in Russia, but all over
the world. It is not a question if there will be another incident, but
rather when it will happen. The Russian energy sector today suffers from
unqualified staff, inadequate procedures for maintaining and running
securely what was built 50 years ago. Chernobyl didn't happen by
accident, it was a symbol of the whole /system/.

My appeal to the US is, please, *do not give lectures to the Russians*!
Give them access to the latest technologies, innovations, and education.
This will allow Russia to update the old Soviet equipment; otherwise it
is doomed to more, and perhaps, bigger catastrophes. The access to
education will change the lives of the Russians much more than giving
financial aid to the state.

In order for this new, and perhaps last, effort to succeed, it requires
not only support from the top - which can be negotiated between the
presidents, but also support from the Russian citizens. The way to
engage them, in my view, is through a system education.

Russian education, which was considered among the best in the world, has
lost its glory and much of its strength, but the Russians have not lost
their desire and passion to learn. The US should create programs for
establishing multi-level relations with Russian primary schools and
universities, and should encourage not only technological transfer to
Russia, but also students and educational program exchanges. Russians
from schools throughout the country should be given the opportunity to
join the western educational system. College, graduate, and
post-graduate studies should involve much more Russians than today.

Don't forget the population problems. Mr. Zakaria mentioned some of them
- negative growth, massive usage of alcohol (although I question the
accuracy of his data that more than 50 % of the death of Russians aged
15-54 is due to alcohol abuse)... Not only is the Russian population
diminishing, the average Russian male's life expectancy is at a
stunningly low 61.8 years (compare to Canada - 78.6, USA - 75.6).
Then, there's the lack of a well established civil society. Being
Bulgarian, this is very, very close to me - my own people suffer the
same lack of belief in their own skills and virtues... or what's left of
them after 50 years of communism. We share with the Russians not only a
similar culture, alphabet, religion, but also the same mistakes.

The US has tried in the past to help Russia - and we all have seen the
big failure in the 1990s; money was sent to Russia in big quantities,
with only one visible result today - the "primitive economy", so named
by President Medvedev. Many Russians blame US experts, who were sent to
Russia, for the way the Soviet enterprises were privatized. And the word
"help" today causes outbursts by the Russian politicians, even publicly.
Ask Michael Dell, who offered help for Russia to Prime Minister Putin at
the 2009 Davos Economic Forum, just to find out that a misinterpreted
word can sometime cause the anger of Mr. Putin.

Perhaps some are already asking themselves, why, on Earth, shall we do
anything, when we have such big problems at home?
To answer that question, one must think not in the short-term
perspective of today or tomorrow, but rather what will happen when the
Soviet equipment starts to explode in a more regular way. And what if
the next explosion is at a nuclear power plant. But, wait - it could be
worse - what if this is an explosion of people - unhappy, with no
alternatives, who are suffering the bureaucracy, and see no hope. If
this happens, it will influence the whole planet, and that's why it is
in all of our interest to do what we can to make sure there is no second

The West has lived for too long in comfortable conditions, thinking that
what happens in one country does not influence others. East Europe was
left to the Soviets, and the two system lived happily. Today we are in a
different world. In the context of climate change discussion, or even
better - the lack of investment in Afghanistan after the Russians left
the country in 1989, and what it brought to the USA, and to all of us,
that seems not like old-fashioned dogma, or a bad taste. It seems
irresponsible towards our own children and our own planet.

Veni Markovski,
Washington, DC
The author is a blogger, and the President of the Internet Society of
The views expressed are his own, and not of any of the organizations
he's affiliated with

Lauren Goodrich
Director of Analysis
Senior Eurasia Analyst
T: 512.744.4311
F: 512.744.4334