LONDON — Have you read Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2006 State of the Nation message yet? The one he gave last week? You should.
You may have seen some references to it in the press. A lot was made of his statements that the Cold War is continuing and also that what the Russian Federation needs is love. Good media stuff that. But actually, when you read the whole thing (only 18 pages) it is difficult not to come to the conclusion that this is the testament of a failed state.
Let me tell you why I reach that conclusion. But first let me pull back a bit and ask you to do some of the work. Sit at your computer and type “Russian women” into Google. OK?
Now, when you see the result what do you make of the information that hundreds of thousands of Russian women are trafficking themselves abroad — in addition to the million or so who have been trafficked abroad against their will. Now type in “Russian orphans.” OK? You can broaden this one by typing in “Russian babies” as well. In addition to the loss of babies overseas, Putin is also concerned about the fact that two-thirds of Russian babies are born unhealthy. Russia has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.
In his speech, Putin complained that too few Russian children live long enough to become conscripts into the army; he also complained that of those who do live long enough “a huge number” suffer from chronic diseases and have problems with drinking, smoking and sometimes drugs as well.
To improve the army, he wants these problems addressed by introducing “pre-conscription military training and military sports.” That will surely get the men off the bottle and needle — a bit late for the more than million who already have AIDS.
Yes, Russia’s population is decreasing by 700,000 a year. Women want out, babies are sold abroad and men are drinking, drugging and smoking themselves to death at an alarming and increasing rate.
Many of the Russians I meet tell me about their plans to move abroad and not go back. They talk with pride about how their children have “escaped” and about their plans to join them.
Are you beginning to understand why Putin describes the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century? His speech brings to mind images of a cock on a dung hill, crowing while the heap slowly collapses under him.
It is sad that the greatest hope that the “leaders” of Russia can come up with, also set out in the State of the Nation speech, is for the millions of Russians who were forced by Stalin into the outer empire, Central Asia and the Caucasus, to come back to the fatherland. Or is that motherland?
Most of the exiles who had power or connections or money went back a long time ago. Those who remain are in a very sad situation. They are regarded with contempt by the locals. Go and hear the opera in Tashkent in Uzbekistan — the best singers and musicians are all Russians, working for chicken feed, unable to move anywhere.
They have no money, no connections and would not be able to cope with Russian bureaucracy. So they are forced to provide cheap, but superb, music for the expatriates of Tashkent. It is not unusual to hear a string quartet played to international standards at private dinner parties by these unfortunate children of Stalin’s victims.
Yet these are the people that Putin and his cronies hope will help rebuild Russia! However, not in Moscow, you know! Oh no, not there. Just as Putin’s main concern is that Russian women produce more babies and that more of them survive healthily in order to strengthen Russia’s armed forces, so do they want the exiles to come home and provide a buttress against the Chinese.
What’s that, you say, “against” the Chinese? How come? You thought that the Chinese and Russians were now the best of friends, ganging up against the West. Th leaders of the two countries are friends, not the peoples.
Sorry to bore you, but try typing “Chinese women” and “Chinese babies” into Google too. See what I mean? You could define countries as failed states where so many women are trying to get out and where so many babies are sold abroad. (You don’t think you can just turn up and take them off for free do you? Have a look at the adoption Web sites. Some of those babies are being adopted by pedophiles. But I digress.)
Putin admits in his State of the Nation speech that he does not expect sufficient numbers of “compatriots” to come back, he admits that Russia will have to “encourage (other) educated and law-abiding people” to migrate into the country. Big test, those criteria! If so many law-abiding and educated Russians are doing all they can to get out of Russia, why should foreigners with those qualities want to get in? Why should they want to subject themselves to the increasingly violent anti-immigrant skin heads who roam Russian cities freely?
No I haven’t forgotten the Chinese. Just how desperate and frightened the Russians are about the Chinese is well illustrated by a recent call by Sergei Mironov, the chair of the Federation Council (the Russian Parliament) for incentives to be offered sufficiently attractive to draw 25 million Russians back from the Commonwealth of Independent States (most of the old Soviet Union).
I doubt if there are that many ethnic Russians living in the Commonwealth of Independent States, and if there are I am sure that they do not want to go back to Russia at any price. Even defining Slavs of any nationality as “compatriots” will not get the numbers up to 25 million; the incentives needed to come anywhere near that figure would drain the Russian treasury dry.
Kamil Iskhakov, Putin’s representative for the Russian Far East, is said to have called for 15 million compatriot immigrants to be attracted into the provinces that border China. In the eyes of Chinese people (it was what their textbooks tell them and their leaders) these provinces were stolen from China in the unequal treaties of 1858 and 1860 imposed by the strong Russian czar on the weak Qing emperor. Russians believe that Chinese will claim these provinces back and they want more Russians to come and live in the provinces to reduce the need for immigrants to make the economy work at all.
However, Iskhakov is a realist, to some extent, as he knows that Russians who can are getting out of the Far East as fast as they are able. He recently said that many regions of Russia’s Far East “cannot exist without immigrants.” They are needed to make up for the “severe shortage of labor for construction of roads, buildings, bridges and essential infrastructure projects.” Actually, they are also needed to keep the retail sector alive, keep the large number of Russian prostitutes in business and also to keep the growing numbers of casinos profitable.
So, Russia is a country where hundreds of thousands of women are desperate to get out at any price, large numbers of other women and orphans are sold abroad, where its army cannot staff itself except with drunken drug-taking smokers (those who survive to conscription age that is) and which is dependent on immigrants from countries that the people regard with contempt, and as enemies, just to survive. This is what Putin’s State of the Nation message tells me.
A failed state or what?
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