Robert Skidelsky
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Articles from Vedomosti (Ведомости)

Why no one loves Russia
Robert Skidelsky
Vedomosti | Wednesday, September 10, 2008

 
I have occasionally toyed with the idea of forming a ‘Friends of Russia’ club in London, but have been discouraged by the thought that its membership would be distressingly small. Nowadays the ‘case for Russia’ can hardly get a hearing in the western world; disapproval of Russia dominates the media; it rose to a crescendo with its ‘invasion’ of Georgia.
 
True enough, there has been some recognition that Saakashvili behaved foolishly, and some criticism of the United States for having egged him on. There is at least a minority feeling, especially in Germany and France, that the question of Georgia’s and Ukraine’s membership of NATO should not be pressed at present. But there was no support at all for Russia’s response to Saakashvili’s

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KGB humour will not reassure foreign investors
Robert Skidelsky
Vedomosti | Thursday, July 31, 2008

 
In a major speech last Thursday in NizhnyNovgorod Vladimir Putin accused the coal and steel company Mechel of price-fixing. In a phrase which reverberated round the world, he hoped its absent chief, Zyugin, would get well soon ‘or we will have to send him a doctor to clean up all these problems’. On Friday, a third of the value was knocked off Mechel’s shares, and the RTS fell by 5 per cent.
 
So much we know, but what lies behind Putin’s speech? It can be read –and this is the official line – as a statesmanlike pronouncement on the Russian economy, which drew attention to the problem of inflation, and the contribution of metal companies to rising prices (metal prices have jumped 50% since the beginning of the year), citing Mechel as an

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A tragedy in Zimbabwe
Robert Skidelsky
Vedomosti | Thursday, July 17, 2008

 
Robert Mugabe is a disaster for Zimbabwe. In his 28 years in power he has reduced a former thriving British colony to a political and economic hell. He rules by massacre, torture, and intimidation. He shamelessly steals the elections he still allows. No wonder he boasts that only God can remove him from power.
 
The once-prosperous Zimbabwean economy is in meltdown, with prices doubling roughly once a week, GDP shrinking at a rate of 10 per cent a year, most farms abandoned, millions living off food aid from abroad, and the few remaining commercial enterprises subject to illegal or pseudo-legal confiscations. Life expectancy which was still 62 in 1990, is plummeting to the mid 20s, and more than 2 million Zimbabweans have fled to South

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It all depends on the middle class
Robert Skidelsky
Vedomosti | Friday, July 04, 2008

 
The middle class has traditionally been seen as the source of most of the good things in modern society –its commerce, science, art, politics. In a famous analysis, the political scientist Seymour Lipset argued that the chances for democracy improve when the social system shifts from an elongated pyramid with a large lower class base to a diamond shape with a growing middle-class. ‘A large middle class’, he wrote ‘plays a mitigating role in moderating conflict since it is able to reward moderate and democratic parties and penalize extremist groups’. Thus the degree of ‘embourgeoisement’ of Russian society is the best indicator of its possibilities.
 
How large is the ‘middle class’ in Russia today? ‘Real Russia: Trends and Prospects’, a

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Not another great depression
Robert Skidelsky
Vedomosti | Thursday, June 19, 2008

 
How bad is the current recession in the centres of the global economy? Some pundits have claimed that it is the worst shock since the Great Depression of the early 1930s. They point to a lethal cocktail of a burst housing bubble, a credit crunch, and an explosion of energy and food prices. The prospect is for an ‘inflationary recession’ of devastating proportions.
 
Up to now any comparison with the 1930s is hysterical, rather than rational. The Great Depression was triggered off by a collapse of agricultural and commodity prices: today the prices of energy and foodstuffs are still rising, to the benefit of their producers, including Russia. In the Great Depression output in the main industrial countries fell by between 10 and 20 per

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