Saturday, October 25, 2014


The Power Vertical

Geography Is Destiny

Hard travelin' near Omsk
Hard travelin' near Omsk

Stratfor this week published a little paper called “The Geography of Recession” that is worth taking a look at, if only to be reminded of the old axiom that “geography is destiny.”

 

The report begins with statistics showing how the global recession is affecting various countries and then moves on to an interesting, geography-based explanation of why the recession is, so far, more than four times worse in Russia (change in GDP of negative 9.5 percent over the last 12 months) than it is in the United States (a decline of 2.6 percent).

 

Stratfor’s analysis of the United States – how its geography, including the world’s largest mass of arable land and a generous inland waterway system that promotes open and cheap domestic trade, produced a resilient and flexible political and economic system – is intriguing reading.

 

But Power Vertical readers are going to be most interested in the Russia section, which provides a neat summary of the Kremlin’s geographical and historical issues. And that section boils down to this, in Stratfor’s words: “If in economic terms the United States has everything going for it geographically, then Russia is just the opposite.” That is, a harsh climate, masses of barely inhabitable land, a disconnected river system that freezes for much of the year, a lamentable lack of warm-water ports, and no meaningful geographic borders separating it from its neighbors.

 

As a result, Russia’s historic national strategies have been predetermined: “Because Russia lacks a decent internal transport network that can rapidly move armies from place to place, geography forces Russia to defend itself following two strategies. First, it requires massive standing armies on all of its borders. Second, it dictates that Russia continually push its boundaries outward to buffer its core against external threats.”

 

The standing armies are a constant drain on the economy and the expansion strategy means “large populations that do not wish to be part of the Russian state and so must constantly be policed.” The lack of labor and capital needed to cope with the needs of the vast territory, Stratfor reminds us, impels Russia toward centralized planning in an effort to harness the limited resources available “to achieve even a modicum of security and stability.”

 

This, in turn, historically drives Russia toward systems having small ruling elites, an impulse that has been pushed to an extreme in the era of Vladimir Putin. The small elite means a shortage of attention and innovation, meaning that “unless management is perfect in perception and execution, any mistakes are quickly magnified into national catastrophes.”

The Stratfor conclusion, then, is: “It is therefore no surprise to STRATFOR that the Russian economy has now fallen the furthest of any major economy during the current recession.”


-- Robert Coalson

Tags: history,geography,economy,Russia

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by: TS from: UK
June 03, 2009 20:20
Why are you giving this guy such uncritical support? At the risk of answering my own question...<br /><br />He is ex-CIA, a notorious neo-con, and at best an uncritical thinker, more often a polemicist - check out some of the reviews of his most recent book on Amazon. (http://www.amazon.com/Next-100-Years-Forecast-Century/dp/038551705X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;s=books&amp;qid=1244059752&amp;sr=1-1). <br /><br />This kind of uncritical report undermines some of the valuable analysis you otherwise present. <br />

by: Richard Mimna from: www.herbalindex.com
June 03, 2009 20:59
Russia will most likely go into default before the years end. There really isn't much hope for them; Putin, and his cronies, have failed beyond the point of any real chance for recovery.

by: La Russophobe from: USA
June 04, 2009 10:03
TS:<br /><br />Why are you giving this guy such uncritical criticism? When all you can do is launch a personal smear, rather than disprove his factual statements by citing contradictory published evidence, you reveal yourself as a massive hypocrite.<br /><br />Russia's economic downturn is FOUR TIMES worse than America's because Russia is led by an unqualified and proud KGB spy who has pursued cold-war confrontation rather then economic development and diversity. Russians have ignored his failure, and ignored his barbaric crackdown on civil society designed to hide that failure.<br /><br />Hence, they richly deserve the suffering they now endure, and if they don't learn from it Russia will go the way of the USSR. Your offensive propaganda only helps to hasten the arrival of that fateful day.

by: Vytautasba from: vilnius
June 04, 2009 10:14
Interesting to interpret using geography. However as far as geography goes Russia has everything both the good and bad. It is really the quality of the leadership that will be the most important factor in Russia's development. Going down the road of authoritarianism, using the judicial system to insure political control, and avoiding any attempt at diversifying the economy have more effect than having connected rivers and ice free ports. Still a fun analysis to read and ponder.

by: Demyan
June 04, 2009 11:25
This, in turn, historically drives Russia toward systems having small ruling elites... It is therefore no surprise ... that the Russian economy has now fallen the furthest of any major economy during the current recession.”<br /><br />Hmm, shouldn't it have been China then? I'll let others list other contradictions and not-quite-facts in Stratfor's unimpressive theory.

by: Karl from: Germany
June 04, 2009 12:39
@TS from UK : that the authors are neo-cons and worked for the CIA does NOT prove they are wrong... the analysis is a geo-political explanation of an economic crisis, not a political opinion.... You can criticise the methodology, but why on earth is being a neo-con an obstacle to geographical analysis, while being a liberal or a socialist is not ?? Moreover, the analysis is thought-provoking, and finally one can read a historically and geographically based explanantion of the crisis....

by: Ivo
June 04, 2009 16:31
I think one thing the author got wrong — geography has blessed Russia with all conveivable natural resources. Look at Finland for example, what do they have? Timber and what else, and yet it's a country a with a very high standard of living, it's very democratic and non-corrupt. Oh and the whole of it is up there in the North, Russia at least has access to the Black Sea.

by: Ivo
June 04, 2009 16:50
Uh... sorry, that article is a waste of time. That dude's puttin' emphasis a bit too much on geographical determinism, tellin us how great and blessed the USA are with the rivers and harbours system, blah blah.

by: Richard Mimna from: www.herbalindex.com
June 04, 2009 19:18
This perspective is only one of many possible points-of-view. Just as a video game can be analysed by a programmer, an artist, an architect, and a game playing consumer, each may have a unique perspective to offer that may actually be correct within their individual spheres of reality. This is only an analysis from a non-political view, and may be totally correct from it's intended vantage point. It doesn't hurt to look thru a pair of rose colored sunglasses once in awhile.

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17:49 October 24, 2014

EVENING NEWS ROUNDUP

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

PUTIN ACCUSES UNITED STATES OF 'UNILATERAL DIKTAT'

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of escalating conflicts around the world by imposing what he called a "unilateral diktat."

Putin made the remarks in a combative speech to political experts at the Valdai International Discussion Club, in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Putin said the United States has been "fighting against the results of its own policy" in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

He said risks of serious conflicts involving major countries have risen, as well as risks of arms treaties being violated.

He also dismissed international sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine as a "mistake," saying they aimed at pushing Russia into isolation and would end up "hurting everyone."

We did not start this," he added, referring to rising tensions between Russia and the West.

(Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, TASS)

MERKEL URGES PUTIN TO SOLVE UKRAINIAN GAS DISPUTE

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone call to push for a quick resolution of the ongoing gas dispute with Ukraine as winter looms.

The call by Merkel to Putin on October 24 comes as representatives of the EU, Russia, and Ukraine are due to meet again next week in EU brokered talks aimed at solving the gas dispute between Kyiv and Moscow.

Merkel also underlined that upcoming elections in areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists must respect Ukrainian national law.

Pro-Russian insurgent leaders are boycotting a parliamentary snap poll on October 26 in Ukraine and are holding their own election in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, home to nearly three million people, on the same day instead.

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)

UNHCR SAYS MORE THAN 800,000 DISPLACED IN UKRAINE CONFLICT

By RFE/RL

The United Nations says the conflict in Ukraine has forced more than 800,000 people from their homes.

Around 95 percent of displaced people come from eastern Ukraine, where government troops have been battling pro-Russian separatists.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, told a briefing in Geneva that an estimated 430,000 people were currently displaced within Ukraine -- 170,000 more than at the start of September.

It said at least 387,000 other people have asked for refugee status, temporary asylum, or other forms of residency permits in Russia.

Another 6,600 have applied for asylum in the European Union and 581 in Belarus.

The agency said it was "racing to help some of the most vulnerable displaced people" as winter approaches.

It also said the number of displaced people is expected to rise further due to ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine.

THREE ALLEGED MILITANTS KILLED IN NORTH CAUCASUS

Three alleged militants have been killed by security forces in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region.

Russia's National Antiterrorism Committee says that two suspects were killed in the village of Charoda in Daghestan on October 24 after they refused to leave an apartment and opened fire at police and security troops.

One police officer was wounded.

Also on October 24, police in another North Caucasus region, Kabardino-Balkaria, killed a suspected militant after he refused to identify himself, threw a grenade towards police, and opened fire with a pistol.

A police officer was wounded in that incident.

Violence is common in Russia's North Caucasus region, which includes the restive republics of Daghestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, and Chechnya.

Islamic militants and criminal groups routinely target Russian military personnel and local officials.

(Based on reporting by Interfax and TASS)

MOSCOW LAWYER IN HIGH PROFILE ORGANIZED CRIME CASE KILLED

A lawyer, who represented an alleged victim of the notorious Orekhovo criminal group in Moscow, has been assassinated.

Police in the Russian capital say that Vitaly Moiseyev and his wife were found dead with gunshot wounds in a car near Moscow on October 24.

Moiseyev was representing Sergei Zhurba, an alleged victim of the Orekhovo gang and a key witness in a case against one of the gang's leaders Dmitry Belkin.

Belkin was sentenced to life in prison on October 23 for multiple murders and extortion.

Last month, another of Zhurba's lawyers, Tatyana Akimtseva (eds: a woman), was shot dead by unknown individuals.

The Orekhovo group was one of the most powerful crime gangs of the Moscow region and in Russia in the 1990s. Its members are believed to be responsible for dozens of murders.

(Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax)

17:27 October 24, 2014

LITTLE GREES VOTERS, ANYONE?

17:26 October 24, 2014

SPY VS. SPY

17:00 October 24, 2014
08:29 October 24, 2014

MORNING NEWS ROUNDUP

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

UKRAINIAN PM WARNS OF RUSSIAN DESTABILIZATION OF ELECTIONS

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is warning that Russia could attempt to disrupt Ukraine's parliamentary elections scheduled for October 26.

Yatsenyuk told a meeting of top security officials and election monitors on October 23 that "It is absolutely clear that attempts to destabilize the situation will continue and will be provoked by Russia."

Yatsenyuk said "we are in a state of Russian aggression and we have before us one more challenge -- to hold parliamentary elections."

The prime minister said Ukraine needs the "full mobilization of the entire law-enforcement system to prevent violations of the election process and attempts at terrorist acts during the elections."

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said authorities have ordered some 82,000 policemen on duty for election day.

He said 4,000 members of a special reaction force would be among those maintaining order during polling hours and would be concentrated in "those precincts where there is a risk of some terrorist acts or aggressive actions by some...candidates."

The warning by Yatsenyuk comes on the heels of three violent attacks on parliamentary candidates in the past week.

The latest, against Volodymyr Borysenko, a member of Yatsenyuk's People's Front Party, occurred on October 20 when Borysenko was shot at and had an explosive thrown at him.

He allegedly survived the attack only because he was wearing body armor due to numerous death threats he had recently received.

Elections to the Verkhovna Rada, the parliament, will be held despite continued fighting in the eastern part of the country between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Voting will not take place in 14 districts of eastern Ukraine currently under the control of the separatists.

Those separatist-held areas -- in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions -- are planning on holding their own elections in November.

Additionally, Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in March means the loss of 12 seats from the 450-seat parliament.

Polls show President Petro Poroshenko's party leading with some 30 percent of respondents saying they would cast their vote for the Petro Poroshenko Bloc.

It that percentage holds on election day it would mean Poroshenko's bloc would have to form a coalition government, likely with nationalist groups who oppose conducting peace talks over fighting in the east.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and Interfax)

RUSSIA DENIES ESTONIAN AIRSPACE VIOLATIONS

By RFE/RL

Moscow has denied claims of an incursion by a Russian military plane into Estonia's airspace.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told Interfax news agency on October 23 that the Ilyushin-20 took off from Khrabrovo airfield in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on October 21.

The spokesman said the reconnaissance plane flew "over neutral waters of the Baltic Sea" while on a training flight.

On October 22, Estonia’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador in Tallinn, Yury Merzlakov, after the Estonian military said the Russian plane had entered its air space.

In a statement, NATO said the Ilyushin-20 was first intercepted by Danish jets when it approached Denmark, before flying toward non-NATO member Sweden.

Intercepted by Swedish planes, the alliance said the Ilyushin entered Estonian airspace for “less than one minute” and was escorted out by Portuguese jets.

NATO has stepped up its Baltic air patrols and Moscow has been accused of several recent border violations in the region amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict.

Last month, Estonia accused Russia of abducting one of its police officers on the border.

Russia claims Eston Kohver was seized inside Russia on September 5, while Estonian officials say he was captured at gunpoint in Estonia near the border and taken to Russia.

The European Union and United States have called for the immediate release of the Estonian security official, who is facing espionage charges in Russia.

Meanwhile, the Swedish Navy has been searching for a suspected submarine sighted six days ago some 50 kilometers from the capital, Stockholm, although it said on October 22 it was pulling back some of its ships.

Swedish officials have not linked any particular country to the suspected intrusion and Moscow has denied involvement.

(With reporting by Interfax, TASS, and the BBC)

RUSSIAN COURT POSTPONES RULING ON OIL FIRM BASHNEFT

A Moscow court postponed to next week a ruling on a move to take control of Bashneft, an oil company from tycoon Vladimir Yevtushenkov.

The judge said on October 23 that the next hearing will take place on October 30 after the prosecution requested more time to prepare its case.

Prosecutors filed the suit in September to regain state ownership of Bashneft, citing alleged violations in the privatization and subsequent sale of the company to AFK Sistema investment group.

Yevtushenkov, the main shareholder of the conglomerate, is under house arrest on suspicion of money laundering during the firm's acquisition in 2009.

Yevtushenkov, 66, was arrested on September 16.

He is ranked Russia's 15th richest man by U.S. magazine Forbes, with an estimated fortune of $9 billion.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS)

11:11 October 23, 2014

THERE IS NO RUSSIA WITHOUT PUTIN?

According to a report in the pro-Kremlin daily "Izvestia," deputy Kremlin chief of staff Vyacheslav Volodin told a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi that Western politicians "do not understand the essence of Russia."

"Volodin stated the key thesis about the current state of our country: As long as there is Putin there is Russia. If there is no Putin, there is no Russia," Konstantin Kostin, head of the Foundation for the Development of Civil Society, told "Izvestia."

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