My newest article on Pajamas Media, “The Short Happy Life of a Russian Anti-Corruption Investigator,” is now up.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
Oil prices creep to $100 a barrel is “fueling one of the biggest transfers of wealth in history” reports the Washington Post. And the cash windfall, which is estimated at $4 to $5 billion more than five years ago is filling the coffers of oil export nations, while threatening social unrest, high prices, inflation, and economic stagnation in consumer nations. All of this signals that there is “no end in sight to the redistribution of more than 1 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.” And who is getting a slice of this 1 percent? None other than the ruling elites of international cankers like Iran and Venezuela, US outpost Saudi Arabia, and of course Russia, among others. The increase in cash into the first two have certainly increased the challenges to the US. The flush of oil revenue will inevitably allow Iran to defy American efforts to curb the former’s nuclear ambitions and growing hegemony in Mesopotamia. The rising prices has give Hugo Chavez more muscle in promoting his “Bolivarian Revolution” in his own country and dole out patronage to his Latin American compadres.
The final results even higher oil prices for Russia remains unclear, especially as the country faces Duma and Presidential elections. But Russia’s oil wealth has already allowed it to bounce back from its dismal years of financial crisis. Oil has allowed Russia to move from a debtor nation to possessing “the third largest gold and hard currency reserves in the world, about $425 billion” says the Post. If there is one fundamental key to Vladislav Surkov’s concept of “sovereign democracy”, it is the bubblin’ crude.
Russia dependency on oil exports can have its long term economic, political, and ecological consequences. The consolidation of the oil industry under the Kremlin is already well known. And some see its economic dependency on crude as an omen for Russia’s future deterioration.
Less talked about, however, are the ecological costs. Especially considering today’s news. First is a report of how five meter high waves smashed the Volgoneft-139 oil tanker in half outside the Kerch Strait. 1,300 tons of oil are now spilling into the Azov and Black Seas. Two crew members were rescued. Fifteen remain missing.
Second is sinking of a dry cargo ship near the Port of Kavkaz. It was carrying 2000 tons of sulfur. The nine crew members abandoned ship on the life raft and are safe. We can’t say the same for the environment around both accidents.
Oleg Mitvol, the head of Russia’s environmental agency Rosprirodnadzor, tacitly admitted that the spills are “a serious environmental accident that will require a large amount of work.” Russian environmental activists were more forthcoming. Vladimir Slivyak of Ekozashchita said that the spill was “a major ecological catastrophe,” adding that “the pollution that has taken place will have to be cleaned up for a long time to come and the consequences will be felt for a year or even more.” Other Russian environmentalists echoed his sentiment.
The Kerch spill pales in comparison to the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989, which released 34,000 tons of oil into waters off of Alaska. Or to the 287.000 ton spill when the Atlantic Empress collided with another ship in 1979. And nothing compares to the 800,000 tons Saddam Hussein deliberately released 800,000 tons of oil in the Persian Gulf in 1991 as a war tactic. Still, the Kerch oil spill and the Kavkaz oil dump are signs of more long term costs of being economically dependent on natural resource exports.Post Views: 456
By Sean — 5 years ago
“Who has the youth has the future!” Martin Luther declared. As object-subjects of modern states, youth serve as the key to reproducing of the means of reproduction. They perpetuate the nation and its institutions. Adults, therefore, seek, to play on Marx, to create youth after their own image. Yet, Russian youth defy capture. According to a recent study by Olga Kryshtanovskaya, Russian youth remain unmoored, disorientated, and incapable of finding their footing in present day Russia. Twenty years after the collapse of communism, “they have no established sense of Russian society and their place in it.” When young Russians look across the political landscape and peer at its various parties, movements, and personalities, they feel a profound sense of alienation. “This is one of the signs that the Russian political system finds itself in crisis,” says Pavel Salin, the director of the Center of Political Research.
Or is it? They certainly threaten the stability of Putin’s political corporatism. But they speak directly to the other side of Putinism: neoliberalism. And their experience with an economic structure that requires an unmoored, apathetic, cynical, and individuated citizenry places them on par with destabilized educated young people the world over. Like their Western counterparts, the respondents in Kryshtanovskaya survey are urban, educated, “middle class,” and politically liberal yet socially and economically adrift. The system doesn’t represent them, and they don’t have or desire a collective social identity to represent themselves.
If there is one word that characterizes the neoliberal experience of Russian youth it’s paradox. Kryshtanovskaya’s report is suffused with it suggesting a cohort split between pathos and reason, present doom and future salvation, and heralds of the nation and its discontents. Statements like “many working youth consider themselves unemployed;” “parties in the present Russian political system don’t correspond to their ideological labels;” young people talking of social calamity but don’t see “a national catastrophe as a serious danger;” and they are politically apathetic but speak of a “revolutionary apocalypse” suggests a non-place in Russia’s current conjecture. Russian youth inhabit the crevices of a paradoxical present.Post Views: 582
By Sean — 10 years ago
Kommersant Vlast‘ made an funny observation about the websites of Russian political parties. Apparently the verbosity and the brevity of a party’s website is connected to their political orientation. Those on the left are more verbose while those on the right are more terse.
The most verbose is the main page for the KPRF, a whole 2273 words. Yabloko is in second place with 1237 words. United Russia and Just Russia are almost twins with 875 and 840 words respectively. The most concise site is the LDPR (unlike this party’s leader) with 409 words in all.
Forget what this says about the political spectrum. I wonder what it says about how each party perceives the attention span of its supporters?
The KPRF might want to consider turning off the verbal valve. Their site is a wordy mess. Clearly they’ve learned little about political technologies of the day. The best way to appeal to voters is not to inundate them with stuff they have to read. The days of crammed broad sheets are over. If they really want to look at an effective site, they should check out Barack Obama’s. Bright colors, smiling faces, lots of graphics and, most importantly, few words. In fact, the thing that dominates the President-elect’s page most is merchandise. Create an image. Brand it. After that what you actually say is an secondary. Now that’s political technology of the 21st century!Post Views: 489