Articles from Vedomosti (Ведомости)
An end to the Cold War?
| Thursday, December 18, 2008
At long last, America has decided to stop fighting the Cold War. On 1 December, the US Department of Defence approved a directive calling upon the American military to be ‘as effective in irregular warfare as it is in traditional warfare’. This means that the question of how best to fight ‘asymmetric conflicts’ will henceforth consume America’s military strategists as much as their more traditional preoccupation: planning WW3. This might seem like cause for celebration, but I am not so sure.
The directive’s architect, Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, thinks that the greatest threats to America are no longer ‘aggressor states’ but ‘failed states.’ Although no other conventional power can challenge America – by way of illustration he
Not what the doctor ordered
| Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Two major reports on the Russian economy were published in November by the EBRD and the World Bank. Both reports make similar diagnoses and offer the same prescriptions for Russia’s ills.
Russia has not escaped the worldwide financial crisis. The stock market collapse saw $1 trillion wiped of the value of Russian companies. The non-oil external current account deficit increased to almost $62 billion in third quarter 2008. Gross capital inflows declined by 40 per cent over the last year. The global and domestic liquidity crisis and tumbling commodity prices have led the World Bank to revise down its growth forecasts for Russia in 2009 from 6.5 per cent to 3 percent. This calculation was based on an average oil price of $100 barrel for
Russia’s credit markets may have remained frozen these last few weeks but its foreign relations have begun to thaw. Foreign investors have yet to return after pulling out their money in the wake of the invasion of Georgia, but foreign diplomats are back.
At the end of October, Peter Mandelson, Britain’s business minister and a former EU trade commissioner, led a business delegation to Moscow. This was the first visit of a British cabinet minister to Russia for eighteen months and the choice of Mandelson was significant. Nicknamed ‘the prince of darkness’, he is Britain’s chief political fixer, and he was sent to Moscow to start fixing Anglo-Russian relations. The idea was to prise the two countries’ relations out of the hands of the
No endgame for America
| Wednesday, October 22, 2008
America’s current financial distress has been greeted by Russian nationalists with ill-concealed satisfaction. It shows, they say, how rotten American capitalism is: sweet revenge for the ideological defeat of communism. America’s geopolitical moment, they also claim, has passed into history: we now live in a multi-polar world, in which Russia will take its place as one of the poles. Most of this is based on wishful thinking and bad statistics.
A quick reality check would show that America’s economy is ten times the size of Russia’s, and American defence spending is almost as big as the rest of the world’s put together. Russia’s commodity-based economy is far more vulnerable to global disturbances than is America’s, as the halving of
On 7 October, President Medvedev made his first video podcast. He had a serious message, ‘the crisis of the international financial system demands urgent joint action.’ On 8 October, standing alongside President Sarkozy at Evian, he proposed a new security pact to resolve the stand-off over Nato expansion. Both these proposals are intended to bolster Russia’s shattered reputation as a good neighbour.
How swiftly the pendulum has swung. Only a month ago, Russia and the west were threatening one another with a new cold war. ‘Joint action’ had been swept off the conference table. Europe was considering sanctions and Russia was talking about suspending its help to Nato operations in Afghanistan. Today, the situation is very different.