Federal authorities the main drivers of modernization
A recent poll conducted by the Levada Center has confirmed what we already knew to be the case: that 62% of those surveyed have no interest in politics, even on a local level, and 84% do not believe they can have any influence on political processes in the country. Asked why they don't join forces to deal with social issues, people say they would expect any such efforts to fail, that such matters are of no interest or relevance to them, and that they are unable to reach a consensus. There is also the traditional lack of faith in the authorities and in political and social institutions.
The reason for such political indifference is the lack of social modernization in Russia.
Experts from the Institute of Sociology at the Russian Academy of Sciences agree with the Levada Center: "Instead of protecting their own interests most people wait for the state to take their wishes into account." Researchers have come to the conclusion that Russians judge their status by their financial condition, not their profession or social group.
Anyone striving for business success and in support of modernization is used to acting as individuals. Their involvement in public affairs makes such activity more effective, but lessens their individual effectiveness. What motivates their participation remains unclear (it is highly personal varying from case to case.) As their incomes grow, the social engagement of these proponents of modernization falls, however among those who are classed as having traditional values, a higher income tends to mean an increased involvement in society.
Interestingly, it is the workers who come out on top in polls on the possible positive role played in modernization by different social groups, closely followed by the farmers. Intellectuals, young people, businessmen and the middle class lag behind but still support progressive development. The role of the military and company managers is questionable. Even less credit is given to law enforcement personnel. Government officials are seen as only hindering development.
Nevertheless, social groups can only support or reject modernization launched from above. Despite the evident mistrust of officials, members of the public and experts both see the federal bodies of state authority as the main drivers of modernization.
Let's be friends
Poland's capital Warsaw has hosted the second forum of Russian and Polish regions, attended by influential participants on both sides, who discussed cooperation in a variety of areas.
In the past few years, the two countries have developed relations that, strictly speaking, can be called neither good nor bad. One could even go as far as to say that there are no relations at all. The two Slavic nations have found themselves on different sides of the barricades, but there have been no serious clashes. Polish and Russian politicians do exchange gibes from time to time, but that hardly counts.
The international community has made its contribution to Russian-Polish relations, too. One need only recall how last spring, U.S. military hardware and Patriot missile batteries arrived in Poland, to be stationed in the northern town of Morag, just 60 kilometers from the Russian border.
Poland and the United States finally signed an agreement on the U.S. base at the end of last year. Now the Patriots are stationed next door to Russia's Kaliningrad Region. Russian diplomats warn that such actions bring anything but stability while their Polish counterparts give assurances that this is a defensive system and that it is certainly not targeted at Russia.
All this suggests it would be difficult for Russia and Poland to be friends, nation to nation, but there is a hope that specific regions might establish ties that could later become the basis for better interstate relations. In fact this policy is already yielding its first results.
More than 20 Russian and 11 Polish regions have signed bilateral cooperation agreements. Poland is one of Russia's top 10 trade partners, while Russia is Poland's second largest trade partner after Germany. Poland was recently offered the opportunity of joining the Baltic nuclear power plant building project in Russia's Kaliningrad Region - the first foreign investor ever invited to participate in a Russian nuclear energy project.
The two countries' upper houses of parliament, Russia's Federation Council and Poland's Senate, have agreed to further coordinate interregional contacts. Last year, speakers Sergei Mironov and Bogdan Borusewicz held the first regional forum in Moscow. This year, a second forum was held in Warsaw.
This year's gathering was attended by representatives of 30 Russian regions. Their discussions focused on the economy, culture and education.
Kyrgyzstan votes to become a parliamentary republic
It's a fact: Kyrgyzstan's collection of usurpers and self proclaimed leaders are no longer merely the interim government. As expected, the Kyrgyz people voted in accordance with government desires during the national referendum last weekend. But this will not bring political stability to the long-suffering Central Asian republic. The struggle for power and for Kyrgyzstan's territorial integrity has barely begun.
It is the politicians' job to promise people the Moon even if they can only provide bread and water. But the situation in Kyrgyzstan is unique because the gap between political promises and reality was unbridgeable under all its previous governments.
This constitutional referendum was held to give the interim government at least a semblance of legality and try to put a stop to the chaos that has swept the country.
Imagine going to the ballot box to answer a question like, "Do you think the Constitutional Court should be abolished?" when your family is hungry and you have no money to feed them? That is exactly what happened across Kyrgyzstan last Sunday.
The rewording of the Constitution has long been a national pastime in the republic. President Askar Akayev (1990-2005) reviewed the 1993 Constitution four times. Under Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who replaced Akayev, the president and the parliament drafted new, contradictory, constitutions, but the Constitutional Court declared both of them unconstitutional. Lawyers from the Council of Europe were very surprised.
The rewriting of the Constitution did not help either Akayev or Bakiyev, and nor will it be of any help to the new government. Kyrgyzstan's new leaders claim that the situation has changed because Kyrgyzstan has been proclaimed a parliamentary republic, which means that its head of government will hold real power.
But Kyrgyzstan's problem has never been the choice between a parliamentary and a presidential republic. Its problem is the wholesale destruction of all its state institutions.
Roza Otunbayeva will run the country until December 2011, whereupon there will be no right to re-election. Eighteen months is an optimistic forecast, as a parliamentary republic can only succeed where there is a developed democracy. When a country's society is impoverished and there is no normal party system, this mechanism will simply not work.
Tehran invites Russian company to develop its oil fields
CIA Director Leon Panetta told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that Iran probably had enough low-enriched uranium for two nuclear weapons, but that it was likely to take it two years to build any bombs.
Iran's leaders deny allegations that Tehran wants to develop its own nuclear weapons. Moreover, low-enriched uranium needs to undergo further enrichment before it can be used in weapons.
However, the lack of trust in the Islamic Republic of Iran and Tehran's secretive nuclear program imply that Tehran wants either to reach or at least to approach nuclear threshold levels.
Commenting on the situation, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said G8 leaders had discussed Iran's nuclear program, as well as the unilateral actions of individual states, in great detail.
"We should also pay extremely close attention to all aspects of this issue," Medvedev noted, adding that Panetta's report still had to be verified.
The latest UN Security Council sanctions against some Iranian companies involved in Tehran's nuclear and missile programs are unlikely to persuade Iran to renounce its nuclear ambitions.
The EU and the United States recently made the unilateral decision to toughen sanctions against Iran and to limit investments in its oil and gas sector. Moscow has expressed its discontent with this policy. "We consider such actions on the part of our partners to be the manifestation of a line running counter to the principles of our joint work within the format of the six country group (Russia, China, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany) and the UN Security Council," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Despite these additional measures, Tehran is still trying to involve foreign companies in developing its mineral deposits. Late last week, National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) Vice President Hojatollah Ghanimifard said negotiations with Gazprom Neft, Russia's fifth-largest oil production and refining company, on developing the Azar and Shangule oil fields were nearing completion.
In its November 11, 2009 press release, Gazprom Neft, a subsidiary of Russian energy giant Gazprom, said it and the NIOC had signed a memorandum of understanding. The document reflects the two companies' plans to jointly develop the Azar and Shangule oil fields.
The Azar and Shangule oil fields are small but promising, Nina Mamedova, head of the Iranian department at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute for Eastern Studies, told the paper.
Russians prefer imports
Russian imports are continuing to grow following their severe reduction during the crisis. In May, they showed a 42.5% increase compared with the same period of last year, says the latest monitoring bulletin issued by the Ministry of Economic Development.
Despite last year's macroeconomic problems, the ruble was not devalued and domestic producers failed to become more competitive. The budget deficit and indexation will restore final demand, but as before this will primarily be expressed in imports.
During the period January-May, trade surplus reached $72 billion, more than doubling year on year. But import growth gives cause for concern, in May increasing 42.5% year on year, or 3.1% month on month. Exports are lagging behind, in May rising by 40.4% and a 1% drop month on month.
"Imports slipped because of pressure put on the economy during the crisis, and they are now catching up," says Natalia Orlova, chief analyst at Alfa-Bank.
Domestic production has weakened recently, also in part due to the exchange rates. According to the Ministry of Economic Development, in June the ruble will depreciate against the dollar by 2.2%-2.4% overall. In May it recorded a fall of 3.4%.
"The crisis did not see any real devaluation of the ruble, its exchange rate did not weaken, and domestic production did not become more competitive. So final demand will now be restored through budget deficit and social indexation, and will focus on imports," Orlova says.
This summer is not living up to industry's hopes. According to the Federal Service for State Statistics, production grew by 10.3% in January-May, compared with the same period last year. In May, industrial production rose by 1.2% month on month and by 12.6% year on year.
A study carried out by the Institute of the Economy in Transition (IEPP) shows there to be less optimism in the industry in June. This is due to disappointing sales. In the first month of summer sales fell 16 percentage points. Industry had expected a rise in sales in June and July, but spring demand showed only 1 to 2 percentage points in growth: companies had been hoping for more. This slow rise in demand and sales also hit inventory assessments. The current balance is now worsening, as had been the case in the previous crisis months, says the IEPP.
RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.
MOSCOW, June 29 (RIA Novosti)