MOSCOW, June 3 (RIA Novosti)
Russia, China, India cannot stabilize Asia without Pakistan
Thursday's meeting of Russian, Chinese and Indian foreign ministers in Vladivostok did not yield major plans for collaboration in maintaining stability on their countries' external borders, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, a daily, reported.
If the trio had reached some agreement for cooperation, it would have meant the creation of a power center in Asia as an alternative to the United States and would have immediately provoked a negative reaction in Washington. But Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi do not need that kind of trouble.
The situation on Russian, Indian and Chinese external borders changed after the recent social quakes in Uzbekistan. The three states fear that a collapse of Uzbek President Islam Karimov's regime would give way to extremists who dream of creating an Islamic caliphate in Central Asia and that a violent revolution is spreading to the other CIS Asian republics. India and China know they cannot remain indifferent to this.
Many experts say the time has come to coordinate anti-terrorist efforts. India and China may find it difficult to interact directly because of an old territorial dispute, but they can use the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, SCO, of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The accession of India to the SCO has been on the agenda for several years.
If the trio (within the SCO or outside it) acquired visible outlines, they should think about attracting one more regional player. Pakistan is a U.S. ally and the American reaction to the possible creation of a coalition is likely to soften if Pakistan is involved. Pakistan is also battling al-Qaeda and is likely to support an anti-terrorist grouping.
If the four countries, or at least the three, were to form an alliance, they would have a better chance at playing a stabilizing role in Asia.
U.S. scrimps on democracy propaganda in Russia
The money the United States allocates to support and develop democratic institutions in Russia is not enough to organize another "Orange Revolution," the daily Vedomosti published in an article Thursday.
The U.S. government spends less on democracy propaganda in Russia than Coca-Cola or Procter & Gamble spend on promotion of their brands on the Russian market. In fiscal year 2005 (since October 2004), the U.S. has spent $2 million less on democracy in Russia than it did in 2004 ($45.43 million). This means it spent 30 cents per capita in Russia against 70 cents in Ukraine in 2004. In comparison, Procter & Gamble's advertising budget in Russia amounts to $70-80 million annually and L'Oreal's to $35 million.
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the government would spend over $11 million in 2005 on rule of law programs. This would include aid to human rights NGOs and aid for training prosecutors and investigators to support the fight against transnational crime.
The rest of the money is used to support independent mass media and civil society institutions (environmental, religious, women's, and others) and to train young politicians and organize student exchanges. However, street youth organizations, working against what they see as the anti-democratic policy of the authorities, deny receiving American aid. "We have never received it and are not going to. We rely only on Russian sponsors," said Ivan Bolshakov, leader of the Moscow division of the Yabloko youth movement.
"This money cannot be used efficiently for revolutionary purposes because the society does not have the same degree of dislike toward the incumbent authorities," said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the Rossiya V Globalnoi Politike magazine. "We would be happy to receive honest aid to develop democracy in Russia, but, unfortunately, this is not the case. The democratic babble paid for by outsiders hinders the real democratic movement in Russia," said Mikhail Rogozhnikov, deputy director of the Social Engineering Institute.
By winning back tax case, Yukos plays into Rosneft's hands
Yukos won its first major case against revenue services in the Moscow Arbitration Court Thursday, having the 2003 tax bill imposed on its second-largest cash generating subsidiary Samaraneftegaz more than halved, Gazeta, a daily, reported.
However, reducing the tax bill from 7 billion rubles ($246.74 million) to 3 billion rubles ($105.75 million) might also be part of the authorities' campaign to prepare Samaraneftegaz for a sale to state-owned Rosneft, since the ruling is unlikely to ease pressure on the embattled oil giant. Yukos still owes the government around 450 billion rubles ($15.86 billion) in back taxes, including bills not yet rubber-stamped in court. At the same time, relieving Samaraneftegaz of part of its liabilities will clearly play into the hands of its future buyer if the government decides to sell the asset to cover Yukos's hefty tax bill.
Analysts name state-owned Rosneft as a top possible bidder. Rosneft has already taken control of Yukos's former main production asset Yuganskneftegaz, which produces 50 million tons of crude per year and has its own tax bill of nearly $5 billion. Rosneft was quick to sue Yukos for Yuganskneftegaz's back taxes, accusing the parent company of involving its subsidiary into illicit tax optimization schemes.
If the arbiters rule in favor of Rosneft, it is likely to take Samaraneftegaz after already having won $2 billion from Yukos in Yuganskneftegaz's lost profits. Rosneft will then have enough receivables from Yukos to take over Samaraneftegaz, from which it has already arrested shares.
Expert: authorities unaware of private business potential
If Russian authorities do not change their economic policy, a crisis is likely to break out, experts told the daily newspaper Vremya Novostei.
Sergei Aleksashenko, president of Antanta Capital: There are a lot of negative trends in the economy, but until the economy is propped up by high world oil prices ranging from $40 to $50 per barrel, there can be no talk of an economic crisis.
However, a crisis is inevitable if the government continues to ignore everything. Our authorities lack the understanding that it is private business that drives the economy. However, it is believed in this country that all problems can be resolved in the Kremlin or at least in the Russian White House. Even in Communist China, economic growth was generated by the non-state sector.
Yevgeny Gavrilenkov, chief economist at Troika Dialog: It is obvious that there will be no big growth in the country under the current government's policy. The economy cannot do anything but grow with such high oil prices, but this growth will be far below its potential. Experience shows that the government is unskilled in investing. That is why budget spending on investment also creates a problem.
There were attempts in Russia to build a Moscow-St. Petersburg high-speed railway. Money was spent, but the railway was not built. The state needs to stimulate an inflow of private investment, especially in long-term projects, but the government is doing little about it. The way the government chooses to spend money is bad for the economy because it accelerates inflation.
Leonid Grigoryev, president of the Association of Independent Economic Analysis Centers: The country is poor and the state, naturally, wants to give something to the underprivileged, like senior citizens, employees of the budget-financed sphere and the military. However, oil prices will start to decline at some point and citizens who have grown accustomed to additional money will be very much surprised. That is why it is necessary to follow the general rule that extra revenues should be invested in large-scale national economic projects."
Russian young people more active than their western peers
Studying trends among young people in eight European countries - France, Germany, Spain, Britain, Italy, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and Russia - experts of the international advertising network BBDO made interesting conclusions, an article in Tribuna said Friday. A comparative survey showed that Russian young people outdo their Western peers by more than two times in most indicators of activity.
For example, 64% of young Russians said they were ready to protect their motherland, whereas only 34% of European young people expressed such patriotism. Russians are more upbeat about the future: almost 80%, compared to 46% of Europeans, are positive that they will live better than their parents.
The survey shows that young Russians have strong ambitions. Over 40% of respondents want to become famous, compared to less than 20% in Europe. Europeans are hindered by the belief that fame should be based on talent and that to a large degree it depends on the opinion of other people.
In regard to satisfaction with their appearance, Russian and European responses were also very different. Sixty-two percent of Russian young people, and only 35% of Europeans, "are satisfied when they look in the mirror." This however, does not prevent 47% of Russians from saying they want to "improve" their bodies with the help of plastic surgery, whereas only 20% of Europeans would be willing to do so.
Today Russian young people want more of everything - success, work, money, entertainment, possessions, communication - and they are certain they can get it all on their own. Russia has more young people who have the philosophy of a winner, 75% compared to 50% in Europe.