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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Liberals' Unrelenting Slide Into Political Oblivion

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A Rare Summit of Discontent in the Altai," a front-page story by Catherine Belton on March 1.

While reading your report about the Altai gathering of liberal and semi-liberal economists, a few things caught my attention as either utter ignorance or purposeful misrepresentation of commonly known facts and easily accessible information -- with almost all of the incidents attributable to former presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov.

First, with GDP numbers. Russia's 2005 GDP on purchasing-parity basis -- according to the Economist Intelligence Unit -- was $10,700 per capita, some 20 percent higher than Illarionov's number.

What does that mean? It means that after the most devastating economic collapse of an industrial country in human history, Russia's economic output today is higher than that of either Brazil, Mexico or Malaysia -- all advertised as relatively successful developing countries (two also significant oil and gas producers) -- and only 10 percent to 15 percent lower than comparable indicators for Poland and Chile, both of which had a huge headstart on Russia and at one point or another had been associated with nothing less than an "economic miracle" of some sort.

I might have missed something, but turning Russia from a country with an economy "smaller than Holland" into a solidly middle-income one -- all within six short years -- would qualify anywhere beyond Barnaul as a sensational success.

If Illarionov's $12,000 threshold for a rich country is to be believed, Russia is just two or three years away from joining the club. Isn't that an astonishing achievement? Apparently not, if Putin is in charge.

Why Illarionov does what he does and speaks the way he speaks, we'll never know. My guess is that it's just a continuation of his typical levity of tongue, akin to characterization of the Kyoto Protocol as an "Auschwitz" for Russia.

If that was not a demonstration of at least partial absence of critical faculties, then how about other aspects of his puzzling thinking highlighted in the article? Such as the theory that "there were no examples in the world where a country with few political freedoms had managed to become rich."

I'm not a historian but it seems to me that the Earth is actually replete with examples of exactly the opposite happening over and over again. Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, again Chile. While some are thriving democracies today, the roots of their present outperformance are traceable to a not all that remote authoritarian past.

The world's biggest all-time success story -- Japan -- in fact is still a de-facto one-party bureaucracy. Democracy, it appears, is always an outgrowth, but not always a cause, of material wealth.

If Russia's liberals and their sympathizers want to slow down and eventually stop their seemingly unrelenting slide into Russia's political oblivion -- and maybe even acquire some semblance of credibility in the process -- then they should promptly and irreversibly disengage themselves from the kind or empty rhetoric that has become their sorry halmark.

So far, judging by the Altai summit, it remains a pipe dream.

Oleg Beliakovich
Seattle, Washington

Why Only in English?

In response to "Roof Collapse Exposes All That Is Rotten," a column by Masha Gessen on March 2.

I totally agree with the view expressed by Gessen. My concern is why publish this particular article in an English-language newspaper? The paper's major audience, I believe, are English-speaking expatriates living in Russian and Russians like me who live and work abroad but want to get objective news on what happens in their homeland.

However, as this particular column would be better suited for Russian-language newspapers to awake Russian citizens, particularly Moscow residents, from social apathy, what was the purpose of publishing it in The Moscow Times?

I have tired to find a Russian equivalent, but alas ...

Natalia Lebedeva
Fremont, California

Army's Poor PR

In response to "Nostalgia, Criticism on Army Holiday," an article by Oksana Yablokova on Feb. 26.

I myself witnessed everything that Oksana Yablokova described in her article about the army holiday.

The holiday is officially called Defender of the Fatherland Day. But the official name of this beloved holiday was misspelled on some billboards -- making the word plural.

And due to the negligence of whoever ordered the billboards, some of them showed the World II-era battleship U.S.S. Missouri next to a Russian Sukhoi jet. All this happened while the defense minister was trying to convince people that great, positive changes were being made in the Russian Army.

I wonder what would have happened to military officials in the United States if spectators had seen billboards with Russian T-34 tanks at a parade of troops in Washington.

Yevgeny Kunitsyn

For Russians to Decide

In response to Paul Shelton's letter to the editor on Feb. 22.

I feel it would be wrong to let these views go unchallenged.

I think Shelton sees history as he would wish it to be and not as it is. Modern America was created from the genocide of native peoples by Europeans, mainly the English, fleeing oppression in their own countries. They cheated, humiliated, tortured and slaughtered these peoples in what was undoudtedly genocide.

How many millions died, and in what circumstances, is difficult to ascertain because they were regarded as vermin whose deaths were not worth recording.

I know of no record indicating or accepting the evil that these Europeans -- the new Americans -- wrought on these innocent peoples, nor of any full acknowledgement of this evil.

Likewise with slavery from which many of the white family dynasties that still rule America gained their wealth. Considering the vast poverty and squalor that exists in present-day America, and that the vast majority of this is found among black Americans, it is difficult to know what acknowledgement and reparations have been made to these peoples by those who benefited most from their exploitation and oppression.

Shelton cites slavery and genocide as America's great sins. What about the quite unnecessary use of atomic weapons killing hundreds of thousands of innocents? What about its subversion and even open attacks on countries around the world? What about its support for political assassinations? Do these not count as major sins, not to mention condoning and using torture on people the United States has incarcerated and to whom it refuses legal defense?

And what has modern America done to truth? It has distorted the truth about each and every country that has chosen, democratically, to follow a different political path to that prescribed by the United States. Just look at what is happening in Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia. Consider what happened to Patrice Lumumba and Salvador Allende.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of events in Russian history, these are matters for Russians themselves to consider and certainly not for those from nations that have, or have had, empires built on the killing, subjugation and exploitation of many millions of innocent people to moralize about.

There is a biblical saying: "Cast the beam out of your own eye before looking at the mote in that of others." I guess Shelton would do well to ponder on this.

David Kennedy
Stonehaven, Scotland

Don't Forget the Drug Users

In response to "Anti-Drug Laws for Drug Dealers," a column by Masha Gessen on Feb. 16.

Gessen's column lamenting tougher limits on drug possession rightly disapproves of the police's lack of efforts to arrest and prosecute drug dealers. She seems to imply, however, that casual users are merely victims to be pitied.

The casual drug user today is chiefly responsible for the carnage caused by the illegal drug trade. Just one example of this carnage is the kidnappings in Columbia of people's family members as an incentive to get them to grow drugs or work in the refining process.

But drug dealers do not go around forcing people to take illegal drugs; it is the users who go looking for the dealers. Casual users often think drugs are cool or chic, and give no thought to those who are forced -- not least by economic necessity -- to grow their pretty poison. Yes, jail the drug dealers, but don't forget that without the demand for drugs, there would be no dealers.

Jennifer Howard

A Russian View of Spring

In response to the caption under the front-page photograph on March 3.

I was startled to read the following description under the photo on your front page: "People on Ulitsa Marshala Biryuzova fighting wind and snow on their way to work Thursday, the second day of spring."

Second day of spring on March 2? Whatever happened to the Spring Equinox on March 20?

I have lived in four countries -- the former Yugoslavia, Austria, England and Canada -- and all use the equinox for the change of seasons.

Carol Head
Ontario, Canada