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  • Current Digest of the Russian Press: Letter From the Editors #32

    Letter From the Editors: August 5-11, 2013

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    Issue #32 Letter From the Editors
    Issue #32 Table of Contents

    When BFFs Part Ways; Yanukovich Wrestles Ukrainian Tigers; Has Rogozin Used Up His 15 Minutes of Fame?

    How do you punish a frenemy? By blowing off your party invitation, according to US President Barack Obama. The White House announced this week that it was cancelling the US president’s Moscow meeting with President Putin slated for early September. The official reason given was “a lack of recent progress” in the bilateral agenda, but unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last few months, it’s obvious that the reason is Edward Snowden. Of course, it was a pretty big snub on the part of the Russian authorities to grant the leaker asylum just weeks before Obama’s scheduled visit. Was Putin double-dog daring Obama to cancel his visit? Pretty much, according to the Moscow Times. But Russia’s repeated steps to alienate the US could relegate it to the periphery of international relations, as far as Washington is concerned. Meaning it’s President Putin who won’t be getting invited to the party.

    Speaking of yet another bilateral relations sore spot, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave an interview to Georgia’s Rustavi 2 television on the five-year anniversary of the five-day war with Georgia in August 2008. Once again raising the point that Russia had no choice but to intervene, Medvedev outlined a list of rules for Russia’s CIS partners to abide by if they want strong and secure relations with Moscow. The response that followed from Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili on the very same television network sounded like a very ominous fortune cookie: Russia is in for an imminent and terrible end, much worse than that suffered by the USSR.

    In a possible sign of such an apocalypse, Russian entrepreneurs penned an online letter of support for Moscow mayoral candidate Aleksei Navalny. A rare step for the Russian business community, which has learned the lessons of Yukos and usually doesn’t like to stick its neck out, writes Nezavisimaya gazeta. But is Navalny on the level, the authors wonder? Or is he going to make lots of promises he can’t keep to the business community, only to revert to the present regime’s populist policies to appease the majority?

    Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, who has the tiger by the tail in the form of jailed ex-prime minister Yulia Timoshenko, is also in a political quandary. According to Nezavisimaya gazeta, if he keeps her in prison, he’s all but guaranteed a win in the 2015 presidential election – but the long-anticipated association agreement with the EU is then on the line. If he lets the braided genie out of the bottle, her popularity and ambition may cost him the presidency. Not an easy position to find yourself in.

    You wouldn’t want to be in Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin’s shoes this week, either. The firebrand politician who oversees the military-industrial sector berated Russian Federal Space Agency head Vladimir Popovkin this week for yet another Proton-M rocket launch disaster, and made a controversial suggestion – to combine the space and aviation industries. Is this an act of desperation, wonders Viktor Myasnikov, or is Rogozin self-promoting again? Apparently, the deputy PM’s constant quest for publicity is starting to irritate Putin, who said in a meeting that Rogozin is competing for air time with talk shows, and can’t carry on a conversation without TV cameras around. Is this the beginning of the end for the politician who was once thought of as Putin’s successor?

    Xenia Grushetsky,

    Managing Editor

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  • From the Pages of Contemporary International Relations: Sino-Brazilian Ties

    "Deindustrialization" and Sino-Brazilian Ties


    By Niu Haibin, Assistant Research Professor and Assistant Director of the Institute for International Strategic Studies, the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.
    Originally published in Contemporary International Relations, No. 4, 2013, pp. 44-57.

    After the global financial crisis broke out in 2008, major industrial economies became concerned about “deindustrialization.”* The important roles that the industrial sector plays in creating jobs and ensuring international competitiveness began to be recognized again. The U.S. launched its policy of “re-industrialization” and Brazil published a plan to develop its industrial sector between 2011 and 2014. China’s industrial sector has rapidly developed. “Deindustrialization” sparked widespread concern because it is connected with the global distribution of technological capability and the future global economic order. It is noteworthy that the U.S., Brazil and some other major economies partly blamed China for the problems that “deindustrialization” has caused and this has had an increasing effect on China’s relations with these countries. It reflects China’s problem as a new manufacturing power. In this article, the author analyzes those political and economic factors associated with “deindustrialization” and makes some suggestions for the Sino-Brazilian strategic partnership. In this way, the author explores some ideas on establishing a new type of big power relations.

    The Economic Aspects of “Deindustrialization” in Sino-Brazilian Relations

    Economic and trade ties have become important factors in the Sino-Brazilian strategic partnership. In the 21st Century, the economic interdependence of the two countries has progressed rapidly. Economic and trade relations are have developed in tandem with economic growth. The 2008 global financial crisis brought the two countries even closer. Both sides have helped each other deal with the crisis. This kind of mutual dependence has strategic value. According to China Customs, trade volume between China and Brazil in 2011 reached US$84.2 billion—that is nearly 4,952 times that in 1974. In 2009, China became Brazil’s top trading partner, replacing the U.S., which had held the position for 80 years. Over 80% of Brazilian exports are sold to China and more than 56% of its trade surplus comes from its trade with China. Brazil is China’s ninth largest trading partner. Clearly Sino-Brazilian trade has bright prospects and there is also a lot of potential for cooperation between the BRICS nations. Because Brazil’s biggest trading partners were previously developed countries, the development of Sino-Brazilian trade is meaningful. This will help the world economy to develop in a balanced and sustainable way. Despite these achievements, we cannot ignore some conflicts in Sino-Brazilian trade related to “deindustrialization” in Brazil. “Deindustrialization” in Brazil has manifested itself in two ways: One is the significant drop in the proportion of GDP made up by its manufacturing industry. The other is the obvious drop in the proportion of external trade made up by manufactured industrial goods. The latter has had a big impact on Sino-Brazilian trade. According to the Brazilian government, the proportion of primary goods in Brazilian exports to China has been rising, and there are now many more Brazilian companies buying Chinese imports than Brazilian companies exporting to China. The ratio was 10:1 in 2010. Although Brazil-China trade had a surplus of US$520 million in 2010, 84% of its exports were primary goods while 98% of Chinese exports were manufactured goods. So it is understandable that, unlike India, which is more concerned with its trade deficit with China, Brail pays more attention to the composition of its trade with China. Brazil is worried about a declining demand for imports brought about by China’s economic slow-down, but it has more deep-seated concerns about the impact of the Sino-Brazilian trade composition on its “deindustrialization.”

    *“Deindustrialization” refers to the weakening of the manufacturing sector in an economic entity with a relatively strong industrial foundation. Both domestic and global factors contribute to this.

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  • Current Digest of the Russian Press: Letter From the Editors #31

    Letter From the Editors: July 29-August 4, 2013

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    Issue #31 Letter From the Editors
    Issue #31 Table of Contents

    Everyone enjoys a good, decisive victory, and Russians are certainly no exception. In Leonid Radzikhovsky’s view, that may explain why so many Russians – who, in his view, have little appreciation for half measures – were disappointed in the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on Russia’s handling of the Yukos case: They were hoping for a smackdown that would have left one side or the other – the Russian government or Khodorkovsky/Lebedev – with at least a black eye, if not down for the count. Instead, both sides came away more or less equally bruised from what was, by many accounts, a fairly balanced verdict.

    Russia is gearing up for another contest that is just around the corner: the Sept. 8 regional elections, which will pit establishment heavyweights against tenacious underdogs. Nikolai Petrov believes the “orchestrated” fight in the Moscow mayoral election will give Russians just enough feeling that they have skin in the political game to prevent them from taking to the streets. According to Igor Bunin, those in power have had to scramble to add a few more plays to their playbook in the political season that’s soon drawing to a close. He believes that by altering the rules of the game and reshuffling some of the key players, the establishment may have managed to stay in the game a bit longer. Time will tell.

    It turns out that Russia may have won the match with the US in its drawn-out head-to-head over Edward Snowden. Commentator Eduard Limonov believes Russia may have even picked up some more fans among the international community when it beat the US at its own game by granting the NSA leaker political asylum. Vasily Kashin contends that the US actually “won” by letting Russia “win.” Now the “foreign intelligence collaborator” will languish in exile in Russia, where he will soon be forgotten by those who might otherwise idolize him.

    For their part, commentators Sergei Kazyonnov and Vladimir Kumachov want to see an end to the rivalry between the US and Russia. They have had enough of the bickering between the US and Russian presidents, and urge the two leaders to pragmatically and responsibly sort out their differences.

    China, another country that for various reasons has many international players on edge, poses a perplexing problem for Russia. While some commentators are wary of the moves China is making (will Beijing’s increasing assertiveness lead to aggression?), Yevgeny Bazhanov feels China and Russia are better suited as teammates than opponents on the geopolitical playing field.

    This week, it was more than just sinister games of West and East that riled the Russian president. Vladimir Putin is crying foul over a particularly odious form of rule-bending that recently garnered attention in Russia after a police officer was viciously beaten by Dagestani workers in a Moscow market who were defending one of their own from arrest. The officer’s comrades calmly stood by and watched because – and every Russian knows this, according to Putin – market vendors pay the cops to turn a blind eye to their loose interpretation of Russia’s laws. Maksim Glikin opines that the informal rules of the marketplace are the only law that migrant merchants respect. Recent survey data show many Russians increasingly associate immigrants with crime, but maybe it is the criminality of the supposed crime-stoppers that is the real issue.

    The Russian president is not the only one vexed by cheap shots. Putin is the one playing dirty pool in the eyes of Ukrainian political observers. During a visit to that country, the Russian president pandered to Ukrainians’ sense of spiritual and historical oneness with Russia to pitch Eurasian (read: Russian) integration as a more attractive alternative to European integration. And, to top it off, he cut short a meeting with the Ukrainian president to spend time with a close friend and pro-Russian lobbyist, Viktor Medvedchuk. That perhaps should come as no surprise: Yekaterina Yuryeva writes that Putin has always gone out of his way for his pals, no matter how morally unscrupulous some of them may be.

    Matthew Larson,

    Translator/Copy Editor

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  • Current Digest of the Russian Press: Letter From the Editors #30

    Letter From the Editors: July 22-28, 2013

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    Issue #30 Letter From the Editors
    Issue #30 Table of Contents

    There is a centuries-old Russian proverb that goes: Durakam zakon ne pisan. Literally, it means: “For fools, the law is not written.” But the way it’s used in Russian conversation is more to the effect of: “There’s no telling what a fool might do.” In summing up lessons learned from the Aleksei Navalny case – in which the anticorruption crusader was himself found guilty of embezzlement and sentenced to five years in prison – Semyon Novoprudsky changes the proverb’s beginning to dura lex (Latin for “harsh law”). In other words, there’s no telling what Russia’s Draconian justice system will do next. Granted, Navalny was greeted with a hero’s welcome in Moscow after he was unexpectedly released from prison (by petition of the prosecutors – go figure!), but expert opinions sharply differ on what’s in store for him next.

    Another controversial figure still in limbo on Russian soil is NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: After promising news that Russia’s Federal Migration Service would provide paperwork allowing Snowden to be released from the transit zone at Sheremetyevo airport, it turned out that his application for asylum is still being reviewed. In the meantime, however (says human rights expert Lilia Shevtsova), the whole situation is making the West look quite bad – the US for its across-the-board invasions of privacy, and several European countries for their apparent collusion. The only one who looks good right now is Russian President Vladimir Putin: He has the moral high ground, from which he can accuse the West of hypocrisy if it takes issue with his authoritarian policies.

    Putin’s apparent indulgence of Snowden is likely a welcome distraction from the domestic economic situation: The latest cabinet meeting featured a report from the Federal Antimonopoly Service showing that internal competition in Russia’s economy is flagging. So is GDP growth, according to the Economic Development Ministry.

    This grim news has not deterred the government from approving a targeted program to increase ethnic tolerance: 4.5 billion rubles is being allocated to improve the coexistence of nationalities within Russia by 2020. How will success be measured? Opinion polling. Experts are skeptical, needless to say. Andrei Kolesnikov and Nikolai Petrov lament (respectively) the lack of tolerance toward sexual minorities and the lack of a coherent strategy to integrate the North Caucasus into the fabric of Russian society. In contrast, Vedomosti editors cite “supercentralization” on the economic level: The federal center seems to step in whenever a regional problem arises (although Moscow often plays a role in creating those problems!). This view seems confirmed by a look ahead to the Sept. 8 “single day of voting,” where regional campaigns are being managed to create the look of fair competition.

    The electoral arena in Georgia showed a potentially promising development for Moscow, as the overtly anti-Russian presidential candidate Shota Malashkhia lost ground in the United National Movement primary to the more moderate David Bakradze. Meanwhile, Russia gets some praise from defense expert Viktor Litovkin for finding clever, self-sufficient ways to circumvent Ukraine’s attempts to extort money for the use of its naval facilities in the Crimea.

    A motif running through this week’s international commentary is coexistence. Aleksandr Zhebin envisions a day when North and South Korea will finally commemorate the Korean War with common understanding, while Veniamin Popov foresees continued swings of the pendulum in the Middle East between secularism and Islamism before balance is reached.

    Meanwhile, the infamous case of the poisoning of former KGB agent Aleksandr Litvinenko took a new turn, as the British government rejected a coroner’s request for a public inquiry into the murder, which might have revealed whether Putin was behind it. To paraphrase a proverb, “There’s no telling what the law might do.”

    Laurence Bogoslaw,

    Copy Editor

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  • From the Pages of Social Sciences: Russian Settlers in Hawaii

    Russian Settlers in Hawaii in the Early 1900s


    By Amir Khisamutdinov, D. Sc. (History), professor at Far Eastern Federal University, Vladivostok.
    Originally published in Social Sciences, No. 3, 2013, pp. 28-35.

    In the early 20th century, the Hawaiian Islands were a bridge of sorts for emigrants from the Russian Far East on their way to the New World. It was mostly Finns and Poles who became Americans, but there were Russians among them as well. At first only few of them lingered for a while on the islands, but soon an inflow of Russian immigrants to Hawaii intensified. The resettlement movement swelled because the Russo-Japanese war had made America revise its policy vis- à-vis Japan, whose expansion in the Asia-Pacific region was increasingly manifest. Japanese workers were turning up at Hawaiian sugar cane plantations in increasing numbers, something that made the US Government apprehensive that the fast growing Japanese population could play a negative role in a potential war with Japan. To counter this trend, the Americans decided to bring to Hawaii, where a US naval base had been deployed by that time, white emigrant labor, who would help to “save” Hawaii from the Japanese.

    The Territorial Board of Immigration in Hawaii was tipped off by Russians coming to Honolulu from Primorye and the Amur Area that it was possible to invite workers from Russian Manchuria to the Hawaiian Islands. The TBI officials were aware, of course, that this could displease the Russian authorities, given their strenuous efforts to settle the Russian Far east and the waysides of the Chinese Eastern Railroad. For this reason, the Board did nothing about Russian emigration until 1909, when a Japanese strike forced it to revive this idea.

    An opportunity soon presented itself in the person of a Russian national, A. Perelestrous, who came to Honolulu for medical treatment and rest on Waikiki and saw a good opening for business. He introduced himself to the Secretary of the Territory of Hawaii and the Territorial Board of Immigration as a major railway contractor in Manchuria and offered his services in delivering Russian workers to local sugar cane plantations. He said that workers’ pay at the construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway was much lower and the working and living conditions worse than at the plantations. He declared that he could undertake to deliver thousands of workers from the Russian Far East. A particularly attractive point in his offer was the claim that the Russians in their mass were of peasant stock and used to hard agricultural work.

    In spite of their promises, the Hawaii Board of Immigration were in no hurry to take concrete steps. it was not until Perelestrous returned to Honolulu, in August 1909, with 50 applications for resettlement to Hawaii and promised to organize relocation of another 10,000 or so that the board made up its mind to send a representative to Manchuria. This representative, A. Atkinson, former Secretary of the Territory of Hawaii and member of the Territorial Board of Immigration, who had had some experience resettling Russian Molokans to the Kauai Island, was given precise instructions on selecting 50 families, or about 300 resettlers, from Manchuria. The Governor of Hawaii provided the necessary funds. on August 30, 1909, Atkinson and Perelestrous boarded the steamer Siberia and set out for Tsuruga, Japan, whence they reached Vladivostok on board the Governor Jack. This immediately became known to the Russian authorities.

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