Melania Trump Club

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Future of Russia

Future of Foundation
Future of Russian Foundation (FOR) is the only U.S. charitable foundation created for and solely committed to the mission of modernizing the Russian system for delivery of health care to women of reproductive age and infants, addressing Russia’s declining population, identified in then-President Putin’s inaugural address as Russia’s “greatest crisis.” Funded initially by the U.S. private sector ($3 m. in seed money from the family of Founder and Chairman Thomas J. Murray, $2 m. equipment gift from the employees of the General Electric Company through its Elfin Foundation, continuing support from the Coca Cola Company, and on-going leadership and support from the Atlanta Rotary Club), US government support has come from the Open World Leadership Program at the Library of Congress, now in its third year partnering with FOR, and in 2004, USAID’s first health care grant ($500,000) in Russia under its Global Development Alliance Program.

FOR operates by intense collaboration between American health care professionals and their Russian counterparts on the principle that healthy young women have healthy pregnancies, and that healthy mothers give birth to healthy babies. Training of perinatal professionals at all levels has occurred through bi-lateral exchanges, Russian teams consisting of neonatalogists, pediatricians, obstetricians, hospital administrators, midwives, and nurses spending a week each year in Atlanta, Georgia, working with American professionals at Emory University Medical School, the World Health Organization/Collaborating Center for Reproductive Health (WHO/CC/RH), and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with reciprocal visits of American teams to Balashikha, under the direction of Dr. Alfred W. Brann, Jr., FOR Medical Director and Director of the WHO/CC/RH.

Russia research to reality
presidential think-tank has proposed radical changes in Russia, including a return to certain liberal elements of Yeltsin’s policy, a multi-party system and cutting the president’s term.
The Institute of Contemporary Development (INSOR), whose board of trustees is chaired by President Dmitry Medvedev, outlined its vision of the country’s future in a 66-page report entitled "21st Century Russia: the Image of Tomorrow We Want", which was released Wednesday.
“Modernization” and “innovation” have become key words characterizing Medvedev’s presidency so far. The head of state has called for changes in almost all spheres of the political and social life of the country.
The idea of working out a systemized approach and defining exact steps in moving towards desired aims has long been in the air. The Russian business daily “Vedomosti” writes that the idea of a report on the issue came up last summer. Kremlin aide Arkady Dvorkovich said that Medvedev had received a draft of the proposals a few weeks ago, but had yet to comment.

Russia and China
China. The 2008 Beijing Games this week joined the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, and the 1980 Moscow Olympics. These four Olympiads were overshadowed by Russian attacks on neighboring countries that Moscow deemed overly independent. The timing of the attacks on Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan and Georgia was not coincidental: In the United States, Olympic years are also election years. And when Uncle Sam is heading for the ballot box, he is weak, and cannot prevent a Russian bear from devouring. For the fourth time in half a century, the Russian bear emerged from Olympic hibernation and feasted to his heart's content.

Russia. The Georgians liken the Russians to the Nazis. They believe Ossetia and Abkhazia of 2008 resemble the Sudetenland of 1938. As far as they are concerned, Vladimir Putin is Hitler, ripping chunks out of a neighboring democracy to destabilize and vanquish it.

The Georgians exaggerate, but under Putin's leadership, Russia is turning into a new Germany. Not the Germany of the Fuhrer and the swastika, but the Germany of the Kaiser and Bismarck. Like Germany in its day, Russia is a power in the process of getting renewed, reunited and rich, seeking to restore its lost hegemony.

Like Germany in the past, Russia in the present is a world power whose size, location and nationalism threaten its surroundings. Since Russia has friendly ethnic minorities in small neighboring countries - its potential for expansion and friction is high. Therefore, just as Germany destabilized the old European order even before Hitler, Russia is destabilizing the new European order.

Russia's Future Energy
Today energy is the decisive driver of Russian foreign and domestic policy. Presidential Aide Vladislav Surkov’s recent speech to United Russia activists showed the government is prepared to sacrifice everything to become an energy superpower. In Surkov’s words, if you have long legs, you should do the long jump, not play chess. But the plan to become an energy superpower will not succeed.

Not only will the Kremlin plan ultimately fail, but it is also causing harm now. The authorities promote the “energy superpower” idea instead of fixing economic and social problems. Sustainable development and international competitiveness have vanished from the agenda. Instead there is only this phantom idea, which holds out the promise of a footprint in the global geopolitical landscape.

In discussing the resource curse, people normally mention weak institutions, corruption, and perverse political incentives. But Russia faces a more basic problem—it doesn’t have enough resources. Only a few petrostates have enough resources per capita to create a good life for their people. All have small populations. (Norway, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar are in this category.) With Russia’s large population the state cannot rely only on resource revenue to promote development. Even if the state were to expropriate all oil profits, it would have only $80 per person per month to redistribute. Moreover the Russian economy is extremely energy-intensive and the country’s large territory imposes significant transportation costs, limiting export capability. So the Kremlin cannot build an economic and social policy on energy alone.

President Vladimir Putin has abandoned the reform agenda of his first term. He has done nothing to address problems in banking, the army, pensions, and infrastructure. Now the government focuses only on the “national projects,” i.e. redistribution.

Such thinking is especially misguided given the problems in the energy sector. Increasing state encroachment is undermining growth. While private companies continue to perform well, state enterprises stagnate. The return on assets in Gazprom and Rosneft is stable under 10 percent, well below average for the oil and gas industry. These companies have a lot of capital but can’t use it efficiently.

Russia Its Future
Russia is said by many to lack a “civil society.” But it partly makes up for this by having a rather interesting public sphere, in which serious topics do get debated, and where glimpses of the great are not entirely confined to televised snippets.

The first fortnight in September saw successive meetings of two major Russian political groups, the Valdai Discussion Club and the Global Policy Forum. The first was on a boat and ended with dinner with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at Sochi on the Black Sea. The second, in Yaroslavl, culminated in a symposium with President Dmitri Medvedev. Scholars, think-tankers, and journalists (both Russian and foreign) joined political and business leaders to discuss Russia’s future.

Three things made these events unusual in a typically Russian way. The first was the intense media interest. Indeed, even the most camera-shy academic can suddenly find himself a TV star in Russia.

Second was the willingness of both Putin and Medvedev to engage publicly with experts on the experts’ own intellectual turf. The only recent Western political leader I can think of who had the confidence to do this was Bill Clinton.

Finally, the two events saw the emergence of two rival political courts, each exuding the faint but unmistakable odor of a looming conflict. For those with eyes to see, the two conferences presented a fascinating glimpse of a crumbling diarchy.

The main theme of the Valdai conference concerned whether Russia’s history and geography doomed it to authoritarian rule. If democracy was the wave of the future, was Russia destined to miss out.

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