Time for Debt thinking’s over Coffee on a wonderful Thursday in Russia…

Time for Debt thinking’s over Coffee on a wonderful Thursday in Russia…

It is a thinking time while sipping that wonderful cup of coffee or chicory in my case…

CNBC on 20 Sept 2011 had a report about “The World’s Biggest Debtor Nations!” This was not so very long ago and I found this interesting and compiled the facts and ignored the pictures and 22 different pages that they spread it out on. I find it better in life to be able to comprehend stuff if we don’t try to get all fancy and such…

Lets start with number twenty on the list and work our way to the grand number one spot. I think that you will be shocked but not surprised at the numbers. I know that this is a small part of the real debt but there is something here that is beyond just money and debt. While debt is the crux of it all, when you are done looking at the list you tell me what all these countries have in common?

20. United States – 101.1%

External debt (as % of GDP): 101.1%

Gross external debt: $14.825 trillion
2009 GDP (est): $14.66 trillion

External debt per capita: $48,258
19. Hungary – 120.1%

External debt (as % of GDP): 120.1%

Gross external debt: $225.24 billion
2009 GDP (est): $187.6 billion

External debt per capita: $22,739
18. Australia – 138.9%

External debt (as % of GDP): 138.9%

Gross external debt: $1.23 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $882.4 billion

External debt per capita: $57,641
17. Italy – 146.6%

External debt (as % of GDP): 146.6%

Gross external debt: $2.602 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $1.77 trillion

External debt per capita: $44,760
16. Spain – 179.4%

External debt (as % of GDP): 179.4%

Gross external debt: $2.46 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $1.37 trillion

External debt per capita: $60,614
15. Greece – 182.2%

External debt (as % of GDP): 182.2%

Gross external debt: $579.7 billion
2010 GDP (est): $318.1 billion

External debt per capita: $53,984
14. Germany – 185.1%

External debt (as % of GDP): 185.1%

Gross external debt: $5.44 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $2.94 trillion

External debt per capita: $51,572

2010 Country NIIP (Net International Investment Position) statistics by the IMF. NIIP is defined by a country’s total domestically owned assets minus its foreign owned assets. All figures have been adjusted to nominal US dollars…

13. Portugal – 223.6%

External debt (as % of GDP): 223.6%

Gross external debt: $552.23 billion
2010 GDP (est): $247 billion

External debt per capita: $51,572
12. France – 250%

External debt (as % of GDP): 250%

Gross external debt: $5.37 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $2.15 trillion

External debt per capita: $83,781
11. Hong Kong – 250.4%

External debt (as % of GDP): 250.4%

Gross external debt: $815.65 billion
2010 GDP (est): $325.8 billion

External debt per capita: $115,612
10. Norway – 251%

External debt (as % of GDP): 251%

Gross external debt: $640.7 billion
2010 GDP (est): $255.3 billion

External debt per capita: $137,476
9. Austria – 261.1%

External debt (as % of GDP): 261.1%

Gross external debt: $867.14 billion
2010 GDP (est): $332 billion

External debt per capita: $105,616
8. Finland – 271.5%

External debt (as % of GDP): 271.5%

Gross external debt: $505.06 billion
2010 GDP (est): $186 billion

External debt per capita: $96,197
7. Sweden – 282.2%

External debt (as % of GDP): 282.2%

Gross external debt: $1.001 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $354.7 billion

External debt per capita: $110,479
6. Denmark – 310.4%

External debt (as % of GDP): 310.4%

Gross external debt: $626.1 billion
2010 GDP (est): $201.7 billion

External debt per capita: $113,826
5. Belgium – 335.9%

External debt (as % of GDP): 335.9%

Gross external debt: $1.324 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $394.3 billion

External debt per capita: $127,197
4. Netherlands – 376.3%

External debt (as % of GDP): 376.3%

Gross external debt: $2.55 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $676.9 billion

External debt per capita: $152,380
3. Switzerland – 401.9%

External debt (as % of GDP): 401.9%

Gross external debt: $1.304 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $324.5 billion

External debt per capita: $171,528
2. United Kingdom – 413.3%

External debt (as % of GDP): 413.3%

Gross external debt: $8.981 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $2.173 trillion

External debt per capita: $146,953
1. Ireland – 1,382%

External debt (as % of GDP): 1,382%

Gross external debt: $2.38 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $172.3 billion

External debt per capita: $566,756…

Now that is amazing and I think you see it now! These are all self proclaimed Western countries that have spent beyond their means like a shopaholic with an unlimited credit card…

Where are the Eastern countries in the top 20? China, Russia, Brazil etc etc etc…

Remember this is debt ratio so that has nothing to do with who is rich or not, it has to do with who spends more money than they bring in…

Want something really pathetic about all this? These countries are still piling on the debt and not showing a sign of slowing down. Why is that?

So where is Russia and China in all this mess? Russia and China are considered a creditor nation, that much I understand…

Okay – done thinking today and that made my head hurt with numbers beyond imagination…

Kyle Keeton
Windows to Russia!

Page 2 acquires list of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s Russian presidency campaign promises

Sasha Mordovets / Getty ImagesMikhail Prokhorov has some big ideas on tap for his campaign for the Russian presidency.

Russian billionaire and New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov recently announced he’ll be running for president of Russia against Vladimir Putin next year. Our inside sources at the Kremlin have helped us gather a preliminary list of campaign promises Prokhorov is expected to make.

1. If elected President of Russia, I vow to move the entire nation at least fifteen miles North, where beautiful, fresh sod will be planted and life will be better for all.

2. I promise to work tirelessly to deliver a center who will average at least eight rebounds a game and relieve the low-post burden from the little people.

3. I will pass a constitutional amendment that says that once I mortgage the future to obtain a superstar, that superstar will be unable to escape to more desirable lands until well past his prime.

4. Once elected, I can assure you that our nation will have a T-shirt gun army to protect our citizens from boredom.

5. Read my lips: “No new luxury taxes!”

6. I fully support anyone joining the Occupy Red Square movement — but only for 24 seconds.

7. Our new energy program will consist of tiny generators inside of each basketball that delivers 1 kilowatt of power for every 30 dribbles.

8. Crimes will now be referred to as “fouls.” Violent crimes are “technical fouls.”

9. Immigration to Russia will be limited to anyone over 6-foot-5 with a killer cross-over.

10. I will have the number 8 retired. And when I say “retired” I mean you will no longer be permitted to even write that number in your checkbook.

Now please welcome my Czar of Gangly, Andrei Kirilenko!

Some 70 people remain in jail following Russia vote protests

Some 70 people remain in custody following last week’s protests in Moscow against the allegedly fraudulent December 4 parliamentary elections, a police spokesman said on Monday.

Some 620 people were detained during the protests near Moscow’s central Chistiye Prudy subway station and downtown Triumfalnaya Square early last week.

More than 300 protesters were detained during Monday’s demonstration at Chistiye Prudy, which gathered some 2,000 people, according to police estimates. The unofficial number of participants had been put at 5,000.

The protest against what many view as widespread vote rigging in favor of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party during the December 4 polls was authorized by the authorities. Police dispersed the demonstration, however, when a crowd began marching towards downtown Moscow, which had not been permitted.

Another 300 people were detained during Tuesday’s protest at Triumfalnaya Square, which also gathered some 2,000 people, according to official figures, and up to 6,000 people, according to unofficial estimates.

On Wednesday, some 30 people staged a protest at Triumfalnaya Square. Around 20 participants in the unsanctioned demonstration were detained. A major protest on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square on Saturday, which gathered between an officially estimated 25,000 and 40,000 participants, ended peacefully.

The police spokesman said “no more than 70 people are currently being held in detention centers following court decisions on their administrative arrest.” The majority of those in custody were detained during the protests, he said.

The remainder of those detained have been released after receiving a warning, the spokesman said. The cases of those detained over disobeying police orders are to be considered by magistrate courts, while the others guilty of participating in illegal demonstrations face fines, he added, without elaborating on the number of such cases.

Among those detained during the protest at Triumfalnaya Square were controversial anti-corruption activist and blogger Alexei Navalny and Ilya Yashin, leader of the opposition Solidarity movement. Both men have been sentenced to 15 days in jail for disobeying police orders during the protests.


Man stabs eight people in northeast Moscow

Police detained a man who stabbed eight people in northeast Moscow on Friday afternoon, a police spokesman said.

“The number of victims has increased to eight. All of them have been taken to hospitals in Moscow,” the spokesman said.

In addition to the stabbing victims, one five-year-old boy received medical treatment for shock after witnessing the attack.

One severely wounded women was taken to clinical hospital #20 in northeast Moscow. Hospital authorities there declined to comment on her condition.



Mayors Resign After Poor Poll Results For United Russia

ULYANOVSK/AKHTUBINSK — The mayors of two Russian cities where the number of votes for the ruling United Russia party in parliamentary elections on December 4 was relatively low have tendered their resignations, RFE/RL’s Russian Service reports.

Aleksandr Pinkov, mayor of the south-central Russian city of Ulyanovsk, resigned on December 8 after two years in office. He told RFE/RL that “I am really frustrated” but refused further comment.

United Russia garnered 30 percent of the votes in the State Duma elections in Ulyanovsk, while the Communist Party received 29 percent.

Local media reported that Ulyanovsk Oblast Governor Sergei Morozov warned at a regional leadership meeting earlier this week that all local leaders whose constituencies gave less than 50 percent of their votes to United Russia would be sacked.

The Ulyanovsk city Duma also decided on December 8 that the mayor will be elected from among and by Duma members, the majority of whom belong to United Russia, and will also serve as head of the Duma. The city’s administration will be run by a so-called city manager hired on a contract with the mayor.

Ulyanovsk Duma Chairman Vasily Gvozdev stated at the session that “the most important thing for our city now is to preserve stability and manageability as the presidential election approaches.”

Gvozdev called on Ulyanovsk Duma deputies to be “consistent and cooperative” in choosing a new mayor and to stay away from “clan fighting and thoughtless statements to the media.”

Russian media reported on December 8 that Amanga Naruzbaev — mayor of the southwestern city of Akhtubinsk — has also resigned. United Russia received 28.5 percent of the votes in Akhtubinsk.

United Russia officially got some 49 percent of the vote in Russia. Demonstrators in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and several other cities have been protesting the results all week, saying that the elections were rigged.

Read more in Russian here

Americans leaving US in record numbers

Ever dream of leaving it all behind and heading out of America? You’re not the only one. A new study shows that more US citizens than ever before are living outside of the country.

According to statistics from the US State Department, around 6.4 million Americans are either working or studying overseas, which Gallup says is the largest number ever for such statistic.

The polling organization came across the number after conducting surveys in 135 outside nations and the information behind the numbers reveal that this isn’t exactly a longtime coming either — numbers have skyrocketed only in recent years. In the 24 months before polling began, the number of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 living abroad managed to surge from barely 1 percent to over 5.1 percent. For those under the age span wishing to move overseas, the percentage has jumped in the same amount of time from 15 percent to 40.

While the United States of America was at one point (and largely still is) a magnet for foreigners in search of work, the statistics makes it clear that an opposite trend is quickly picking up steam.

“There’s a feeling among more entrepreneurial Americans that if you really want to get anything done, you have to get out of country and away from the depressing atmosphere,” Bob Adams of America Wave tells Reuters. “There’s a sense of lost direction, so more people are looking for locations that offer more hope about the future.”

Many of those leaving the US have job skills that would transfer quite well in the American market. Instead, however, they chose to bring those out of the States, attracted instead to opportunities elsewhere.

While America offers some employment opportunities unmatched outside of the United States, the country has also seen dire economic statistics since the dawn of the Obama administration, with jobless benefit claims soaring in recent months, and only last week did the Department of Labor reveal an unemployment statistic below 9 percent. On the contrary, the number of Americans that want full-time work and have given up on finding it or unable to locate it is closer to double that figure, while at the same time many of America’s largest employers have outsourced positions across the globe. Banking giant Goldman Sachs announced earlier this year that in the wake of a recession, they would finally be creating 1,000 new positions, yet making them available only to workers in Singapore. Other industries, significantly American, have been relocated as well; the ending of NASA’s space shuttle program this year left many intelligent US citizens with little choice but to continue in their field outside of the States.

“We’ve pretty much outsourced everything else,” aerospace technician Giovanni Pinzon tells RT. He was left scrambling for a job after years working in America’s space program.

America Wave’s Adams adds to Reuters that the statistics prove surprising to him, but noted that it doesn’t exactly make sense to think that it is a fluke.

“They’re looking for work because of the sluggish economy, and they’ve lost confidence that the U.S. is going anywhere,” says Adams.

Arrests as Russians rally against ‘election fraud’

Thousands of people gathered in downtown Moscow on Monday to protest against alleged election fraud.

Crowd numbers were estimated at “around 5,000” by a RIA Novosti correspondent at the scene. Police put the crowd at 2,000.

Opposition rallies in Moscow rarely draw more than 500 people.

There were an unconfirmed number of arrests made as the crowd gathered at downtown Moscow’s Chistye Prudy region. Influential blogger and anti-graft activist Alexei Navalny was among those detained.

“I’ve never seen anything like this. A sea of pi**ed off young Russians, revved up and loud,” Foreign Policy magazine’s Moscow correspondent Julia Ioffe wrote on her Twitter account.

Protestors called on the police to “be with the people.”

Sunday’s elections were marred by widespread allegations of poll procedure, with dozens of clips appearing to show election fraud uploaded onto the Internet.

The rally, organized by the opposition Solidarnost movement, came a day after parliamentary elections in Russia saw the ruling United Russia party suffer its worst ever result.

While the party of Prime Minster Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev managed to hold onto a simple parliamentary majority, its share of the vote slumped from 64% to just under 50%.

The protest is continuing at Lubyanka, near the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB), although crowd numbers have dropped considerably.


US-Russia Reset vs. European Missile Shield

The American missile defense system in Europe is aimed at creating global tension. Political scientist Igor Panarin believes that part of the British-American transnational elite is trying to destabilize Europe and start a new Cold War.

In the article below, Panarin explains his view.

Due to the missile defense system, Russia and the US find themselves in a situation which some experts call the end of the “reset” and the beginning of a new Cold War. Essentially, we’re looking at the US’s intentional attempt to question Russia’s status as a great nuclear state, and start dismantling the foundation of Russia’s state security system. Will the Russian-US reset continue in 2012? It probably will, if it withstands the missile defense test. So far, there have been strong doubts about it, which have grown even stronger since the pre-term deployment of the radar in Stelogorsk. On 28 December Russian President Medvedev introduced his Voronezh-DM radar. The radar is capable of detecting up to 500 ballistic and cruise missiles launched from land as well as ocean within up to six thousand kilometers. Similar radar, Voronezh-M has already been deployed in Lekhtusi, outside St. Petersburg, and another Voronezh-DM radar, in the Armavir district, Krasnodar Region.

The United States made their statement in response to deploying the radar in the Kaliningrad Region. This radar became a symbol of Russia’s readiness to respond to deployment of the anti-Russian missile defense system in Europe. The US representatives said that an option of agreeing with Russia was still out there. But they have doubts about it. The trick is that soon, the “architect” of the reset between Moscow and Washington, Michael McFaul, will soon become the US ambassador to Russia. His candidacy has been approved by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. At the hearing regarding his statement, even McFaul said that the US Presidential Administration would deploy the US missile defense system regardless to whether it improves its cooperation with Russia in this matter or not. Thus it will be quite difficult to reach an accord between Russia and America. The Russian President has recently listed a number of potential response measures. Among them was the deployment of Iskander missile complexes in the Kaliningrad Region. Iskanders can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.   

Russia could also reinforce its “asymmetric response” with a number of efficient foreign policy tools. For instance, Moscow should revisit its current collaboration with the United States on a number of significant issues, such as the transit of supplies for the US military effort in Afghanistan. Notably, Russia can gain additional leverage on Washington now that the United States is about to fall out completely with its long-standing strategic partner Pakistan over the recent “friendly fire” incident. Following a misguided NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani servicemen, thousands of enraged locals took to the streets in Karachi and several other cities across Pakistan to protest US military presence.

One of the protests featured a burning effigy of President Barack Obama, as well as US flags similarly set on fire. Pakistan’s top brass have slammed President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani for what is seen as their excessive reliance on America. This has prompted Islamabad to react swiftly and furiously to the air strike, entirely shutting down the transit corridor for the coalition forces stationed in Afghanistan, and issuing a statement demanding that the US troops should clear the Shamsi air base in the province of Balochistan within 15 days. This demand poses a serious impediment for the US-led coalition in Afghanistan, since the Pakistan transit corridor used to be the shortest and most convenient supply route for the allied troops.

This puts Russia in a position to seal the only remaining passage for coalition supplies to Afghanistan – a move that could urge Washington to think twice with regard to its plans for a European missile shield. By taking advantage of the current bottleneck situation, Russia could effectively prevent the United States from deliberately targeting Russia’s nuclear deterrence capabilities, and therefore destabilizing Europe and sparking a new Cold War.

A 100,000-strong US force could be trapped in Afghanistan with no food and ammunition supplies, haunted by the plight of the British with Elphinstone’s Army, which was isolated and totally massacred in Afghanistan in 1842.

I personally hope that all American GIs presently stationed in Afghanistan will safely make it back home, and that the US will give up on it plans on encircling Russia with its missile defense architecture in Europe, signaling its commitment to further promoting the US-Russia “reset” in 2012.

­Prof. Igor Panarin, Doctor of Political Sciences, for RT

­The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Nadal overwhelms Del Potro to clinch Davis Cup for Spain

Spain have won the Davis Cup after their number one Rafael Nadal recovered from a terrible start to hold on to beat Juan Martin del Potro in four sets to give the hosts an insurmountable 3-1 lead.

Del Potro hit the ground running and Nadal soon found himself one set behind. The Argentinian gave him almost no chance in winning the first set 6-1.

The story looked like it was going to be repeated at the beginning of the second set, but little by little Nadal started to find his rhythm. He broke back and then secured another break to level matters on the clay court in Seville.

He continued to dominate and beat Del Potro with one of 35 winners to take the next set 6-1.

And the fourth turned out to be the final one. The players exchanged breaks to reach a tie-break, which turned out to be completely one-sided as Nadal whitewashed his opponent, winning 7-0.

Consequently, the Spaniards grabbed their fifth Davis Cup overall, and their third in the last four years.

Moscow sees number of cars grow by 600,000 in year

The number of motor vehicles in Moscow has grown by 600,000 since the start of the year, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on the state-run TV Center channel on Thursday.

Sobyanin, who replaced Yury Luzhkov as Moscow mayor in October 2010, has been tasked with resolving the problem of endless traffic jams in the city of over 11 million.

“In my opinion, the problem of traffic jams in Moscow can be resolved, but not in a simple way. It cannot be resolved through road construction as the number of vehicles is increasing. This year, the number of cars grew by 600,000,” he said.

There are currently about 4 million cars registered in Moscow.


Russian Air Force to get 60 air defense systems in 2012

The Russian Air Force is planning to acquire about 60 new and modernized air defense systems in 2012, Air Force spokesman Col. Vladimir Drik said on Thursday.

“The new acquisitions include S-400 long-range air defense missile systems, Nebo-U radars and Pantsir-S1 short range missile/gun systems,” Drik said.

The Air Force will receive up to 10 Su-34 Fullback fighter-bombers, about 10 Su-25SM Frogfoot attack fighters, and an unspecified number of Su-35S Flanker-E multirole fighters.

The Su-35S is Russia’s advanced “Generation 4++” fighter.

New acquisitions will also include over 20 attack helicopters, such as the Mi-28N Night Hunter and the Ka-52 Alligator, as well as “highly modernized” Mi-35 Hind helicopters.

The Air Force will also receive about 30 Mi-8 transport and five Mi-26T heavy lift helicopters.


HIV infection rate in Russia rises 10 pct in Jan.-Oct.

The number of new HIV infections in Russia rose almost 10 percent in January-October 2011 year-on-year, a leading Russian expert on HIV/AIDS said on Wednesday.

“We have registered 48,363 new cases in ten months, up 9.6 percent year-on-year. We expect that more than 62,000 new HIV cases will be detected this year,” said Vadim Pokrovsky, the head of Russia’s federal AIDS research center.

The statement came ahead of World AIDS Day, observed on December 1. Between 2011-2015, World AIDS Days will have the theme of “Getting to zero: zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.”

As of November 1, Russia had 636,979 confirmed cases of HIV infection since recordkeeping began in 1987. The number has almost doubled since 2006. A total of 104,257 HIV patients have already died.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infects cells of the immune system and destroys or impairs their function. Infection results in the progressive deterioration of the immune system, breaking down the body’s ability to fend off infections and diseases. AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome) refers to the most advanced stages of HIV infection.

According to the World Health Organization’s 2011 World Health Statistics report, the number of people living with HIV worldwide continues to grow, reaching an estimated 33.3 million people in 2009, with 2.6 million new infections and 1.8 million HIV/AIDS-related deaths recorded in the reporting period.

HIV/AIDS remains one of the world’s most significant public health challenges, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Approximately 10 million people worldwide are in need of antiretroviral therapy but have no access to the treatment.

Russia rolls out boxes for unwanted babies

A newly-installed baby box in Russia’s south has received its first-ever “parcel” – a newborn girl.

The service was introduced for the first time in Russia in early November at several hospitals in the Krasnodar Region.

Such “baby boxes” (also dubbed “cradles of hope”) can be used by mothers who decide to abandon their newborns. No CCTV cameras are installed nearby, so the women are guaranteed anonymity.

Within 15 seconds of a baby being placed in the container, an alarm is triggered. The hospital’s doctors immediately come to fetch the child.

If the baby is healthy, no investigation follows. Once the police ensure the child was not stolen, he or she is officially proclaimed a foundling.

The aim of the project is to give unwanted babies a chance to survive and even find foster parents.

In the months to come, such baby boxes will be installed all across Russia.

The first “baby boxes” appeared in the German city of Hamburg in April 2000. The project was backed by the government after a survey revealed the shocking figures on the number of babies thrown into garbage containers. Since then 25 children have been left in Hamburg’s “baby box” since then.

Currently, such boxes are available in Italy, Hungary, South Africa, Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Austria, Sweden, Slovakia and Japan. Statistics show that the boxes have helped to reduce the number of babies left in garbage containers by 63 per cent.

About 800,000 worshipped Christian relic in week

More than 800,000 people visited Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior last week to see the a belt believed to have belonged to the Virgin Mary.

The relic, brought to Russia from Mount Athos in Greece for the first time in history, has been on display in the Cathedral since November 19. The access to the belt will be allowed until 2:00 a.m. Monday [22:00 GMT].

“The total number of pilgrims since November 19 surpassed 800,000 people on Sunday evening. At least 40% of them are residents of other Russian regions, as well as Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. During this period, over 850 busses with pilgrims arrived to Moscow,” a source in the organizing committee said.

Believers from central Russian regions, as well as from other former Soviet states, have poured into the capital to see the belt. The line stretched several km and on some days worshippers had to queue for 24 hours on average.

Over 1,500 policemen, two patrol boats and 25 ambulance cars were on duty to help the believers. The worshippers were provided with free meals and tea as they waited. Some 50 people have been taken to hospital since November 19.

Believers say the Virgin Mary wove the belt out of camel wool and wore it until the end of her Earthly days, when she passed the belt on to the Apostle Thomas.

The relic belongs to the Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos in Greece. The belt was brought to Russia on October 20 and has already been shown in many Russian cities, including St Petersburg.

Putin: Perils of a piecemeal parliament

Vladimir Putin has underlined the critical importance of the United Russia party getting the maximum number of votes in December’s elections. Otherwise, he said, parliament will stop being effective, with catastrophic results for Russia.

The prime minister issued his warning while meeting the leaders of United Russia’s faction in the State Duma on Thursday. Vladimir Putin, who heads the ruling party, said Russia could face an economic crisis similar to the one currently rocking Europe and the USA if United Russia fails to win enough seats to give it a parliamentary majority.

“What is happening at our European friends’ places and with our partners in the USA is, among other things, a result of the absence of consolidation in society which comes about when leading political forces cannot come to an agreement,” Putin said. “I hope this will not happen in our country. In this connection, I would like to draw your attention to the necessity to get the maximum result at the forthcoming elections,” the PM added.

“If we fragment our parliament, it will not be able to make the necessary decisions in the necessary time. If we only make promises and live at the next generation’s expense, at some point this will drag us to the line behind which our friends and partners in Europe now find themselves,” Putin said.

Currently, United Russia holds the constitutional majority in the lower house where it has 315 seats out of 450. The party aims to retain that majority after the December 4 elections.

Deputy Duma speaker and senior party member Oleg Morozov said that United Russia’s task is “to preserve the opportunity to work efficiently,” and that requires holding the parliamentary majority. He expressed hope that the party would manage to achieve this electoral goal.

Russia downplays NATO move on key arms treaty

NATO’s decision to curb its cooperation with Moscow on the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty will not harm Russia’s interests, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

United States and a number of its NATO allies announced on Tuesday they will no longer exchange information on conventional weapons and troops with Russia four years after Russia stopped implementing the treaty in 2007.

“The decision of NATO countries does not harm the Russian interests, but it calls for intensified efforts of all interested parties to determine the future of arms control regime in Europe,” the ministry said in a statement.

The original CFE Treaty was signed in 1990 by 16 NATO countries and six Warsaw Pact members and came into force in 1992. The treaty set equal ceilings for each bloc on five key categories of conventional armaments and military hardware, including tanks, combat armored vehicles, artillery, assault helicopters and combat aircraft.

The CFE Treaty played a crucial stabilizing role during the breakup of the Soviet Union and its satellite states in Eastern Europe. However, later the document became largely outdated and irrelevant amid large-scale changes in the military and political environment.

The treaty was updated in 1999, but NATO members states refused to ratify it citing the fact that Russia was keeping troops in Georgia and the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdnestr as a pretext.

Russia imposed a unilateral moratorium on the CFE treaty in December 2007, citing concerns over NATO’s eastward expansion, U.S. missile defense plans for Europe, and the refusal of alliance members to ratify the adapted treaty. Moscow has repeatedly said it will resume its participation in the CFE if NATO member states ratify the adapted treaty.


Base jumpers favor historic roofs of St. Petersburg’s

Policemen in St. Petersburg have arrested two base jumpers who allegedly leapt from the top of a factory chimney.

Witnesses thought they intended to kill themselves.After landing safely the jumpers scarpered.

Police are trying to find out if the pair was also responsible for another stunt. Back on November 20, two people illegally broke into the Peter and Paul Fortress and base-jumped from the roof.

The incident was captured on camera and uploaded on the Internet, where it has attracted a huge number of hits and comments.

The Fortress’ management says the video is fake, as there is no way anyone could have got past security.

A brief history of photography

A brief history of photography

A photo biennale at the Marble Palace documents the last 150 years in Russia through the photographer’s lens.

Published: November 23, 2011 (Issue # 1684)

Aristocratic balls just before the Bolshevik Revolution, Silver Age art exhibitions, military parades in the Stalin era, peasants working hard in the fields and the first trains arriving at provincial stations can all be seen at the Marble Palace of the State Russian Museum as part of a photo biennale that explores the history of photography.

The new exhibit explores the history of photography as a technological process, and showcases a number of techniques used throughout the history of this art from the middle of the 19th century. Daguerreotypes, prints on silver paper, bromoil prints and early experiments with the use of color are all on show.

The Russian Museum has joined forces with the city’s History of Photography Museum as well as a number of archives and libraries in both St. Petersburg and Moscow to create a journey through the past 150 years, as documented by the country’s most talented photographers.

The exhibition showcases 400 incredible prints, including fascinating views of serene city landscapes from the pre-revolutionary era by Karl Bulla, and shots taken by Alexander Chekhov, the elder brother of the writer Anton Chekhov.

Such an exhibition would be unthinkable without featuring Bulla, who is often referred to as the father of photography reporting in Russia. Bulla documented the lives of Russian aristocrats, gentry and merchants, and his vast collection of prints covers the most intricate details of life in St. Petersburg at the start of the 20th century.

Bulla’s photographs of members of the Romanov family and members of other European royal families gained him international recognition. The legendary photographer was awarded state orders from a number of countries, including Italy, Romania and Persia.

His iconic portraits of Russia’s last tsar — Nicholas II — and his family comprise part of the new show.

Both of Bulla’s sons, Alexander and Viktor, followed in their father’s footsteps. Viktor became a star in his own right, carving out a reputation as a war reporter for his photo essays from the Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905).

Viktor Bulla also documented the historic events of the year 1917, starting from the summer riots that preceded the revolution. After the Bolsheviks seized power, it was thanks to Viktor Bulla that the priceless photography archives of the Bulla dynasty, numbering more than 70,000 images, did not perish. Viktor Bulla donated them to the Russian state archives, and the current show at the Marble Palace was therefore made possible thanks to the personal effort that he made many decades ago.

The photo biennale embraces all imaginable genres of photography, from portraits and landscapes to chronicles. The oldest items on display are daguerreotypes dating back to the 1840s. Unlike today, when some technologies reach Russia later than, for example, Western Europe, the country woke up to the opportunities of photography almost immediately after it first emerged. Many of the items are on show to the general public for the first time.

The scope of the exhibition is by no means small, embracing photo shoots from rehearsals of some of the first stagings of Gogol’s classic play “The Government Inspector” provided by the archives of the St. Petersburg Theater Art Library. The exhibition also takes a close look at World War I, with its horrors and rare touching moments, such as shots of Russian noblewomen-turned-volunteers in field hospitals.

The Russian Ethnography Museum has added some zest to the show with a collection of photos from a 1867 exhibition of folk art in Moscow. Culture vultures will also be thrilled to see some of the last photographic images of Lev Tolstoy. The author of “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina” is pictured at his country estate of Yasnaya Polyana in central Russia.

In addition to fascinating historical images, the exhibition also showcases various models of cameras and photographic equipment that were in use during the course of the past 150 years.

The 1st Photo Biennale of Archive Photography runs through Jan. 20, 2012 at the Marble Palace, 5 Millionnaya Ulitsa. Tel. 312 9054. M. Nevsky Prospekt.

U.S. Halts Arms Treaty Cooperation With Russia

The United States has announced that it will not allow Russian inspections of U.S. bases or share data with Russia on its nonnuclear weapons stores in Europe after years of failed efforts to revitalize a Cold War-era arms treaty.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, who served as the leading U.S. negotiator on the issue before taking up her current post, announced the decision to stop meeting its obligations under the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty with respect to Russia.

“The U.S. has made a decision to cease implementing vis-a-vis Russia certain obligations under the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty,” Nuland said. “This move responds to Russia’s cessation of implementation of the CFE, which began in December 2007, and the subsequent impasse with Moscow on a way forward.”

She added: “It is our understanding that a number, if not all, of the NATO allies will do the same.”

Observers suggest the impact of the decision is more symbolic than practical, since other signatories are likely to forward such information on to Moscow.

But it highlights persistent differences over missile defense and continued fallout from 2008 hostilities between Russia and neighboring Georgia that left Russian troops on the soil of a fledgling former Soviet republic.

Failure To Renegotiate

First signed in Paris in 1990 by the members of NATO and the former Warsaw Pact countries, the CFE treaty set equal limits on both sides for non-nuclear, or conventional, weapons that could be used for large-scale offensives.

Also establishing ceilings for troops as well as exchanges of information and an inspection regime, the treaty was seen at the time as key to European security at the end of the Cold War.

Russia sought to renegotiate the CFO treaty in the late 1990s after a number of former Warsaw Pact nations joined NATO, rendering the treaty’s bloc-based provisions obsolete.

An updated treaty was signed in 1999, but NATO countries refused to ratify it, insisting that Russia must first withdraw its troops from Georgia and Moldova’s breakaway Transdniester region.

The roadblocks both sides originally faced in trying to reform the treaty have hung over more recent negotiations as well, said Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and an expert on arms control in the former Soviet Union.

“There was an effort in 2010 to try to see if there was a way to get the regime back into place or at least come up with principles for restoring a limitation regime on CFE, and it really foundered over the question of how to handle Georgia,” Pifer said. “From the United States’ side, a key principle of any CFE-type arrangement is that a host country has a sovereign right to say yes or no to foreign troops on its territory — host nation consent. And the problem of course was how do you deal with South Ossetia and Abkhazia?”

‘Not Reciprocated’

After the short but bloody Russian-Georgian war in 2008, Moscow recognized the self-declared independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, both breakaway Georgian territories. Most countries, including the United States, say the regions remain under Tbilisi.

Scrapped U.S. plans for land-based missile defense structures in Eastern Europe also hung over the treaty, with former Russian President Vladimir Putin declaring in 2007 that the treaty limited his nation’s ability to respond to increasing threats.

He suspended Russian participation for all 30 signatory countries.

The State Department’s Nuland said that after repeated efforts to make progress with Russia and the choice to continue to meet its own treaty requirements along the way, Washington decided that “We don’t think it’s in our interest to provide data that’s not reciprocated.”

She said that the United States had not abandoned hope for modernizing and reimplementing the treaty with Russia, saying the decision could “crystallize the mind in terms of our ability to get back to the table.”

In practical terms, Washington will continuing sending weapons data to other treaty signatories, such as Belarus, which could choose to pass it along to Russia.

With defense budgets dropping across Eurasia and with most signatory countries — other than Armenia and Azerbaijan — maintaining stockpiles well below the treaty limit, the information is also not considered particularly vital to Russia.

“I think this is mainly a symbolic gesture,” said Pifer. “Certainly there are other countries that may get the information and they may choose to share it with Russia; and, quite frankly, given its national technical means, Russia probably has a pretty good fix on a lot of this information in any case.”

Pifer said such information was being provided as a confidence-building measure, adding that “it’s particularly useful for countries other than the United States and Russia that don’t have the sophisticated satellites and other capabilities that Washington and Moscow have to track this sort of thing.”

“So in real terms, is this going to be a huge impact on Moscow? Probably not. But I think it is designed to send a signal.”

‘Two To Tango’

But in announcing the toughened U.S. stance, Nuland was also asked whether the signal is meant to refer to more than just the state of negotiations on the arms treaty.

Washington is also currently at an impasse with Moscow over the possibility of sharing resources toward a European missile defense system.

While Nuland said the two are different issues, she suggested that in general, increased flexibility on Russia’s part would be welcome.

“From this point of view, we don’t see a direct connection between the two: missile defense is missile defense, conventional arms control is conventional arms control,” Nuland said. “We want to have both. We want to have a good, collaborative relationship with Russia on both — but it takes two to tango.”

Nuland also downplayed concern that the U.S. move ran counter to the spirit of “resetting” relations with Moscow.

“What we’ve always said about the reset is that the reset would enable us to collaborate and cooperate more where we could, but also to be clear and honest when we have difficulties and we have differences,” Nuland said.

“We thought it was important to be clear now.”

Foreigners to blame for 20% of Moscow murders – prosecutor

Foreign nationals are responsible for some 20 percent of the murders and half of the rapes registered in Moscow since the beginning of the year, government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported on Tuesday, quoting the capital’s prosecutor.

Sergei Kudeneyev also said some 30 percent of robberies and 20 percent of thefts are committed by foreigners.

He said, however, that the number of crimes committed in Moscow by foreign citizens dropped by 30 percent since 2010. The overall number of crimes registered in the capital also decreased by 7 percent in the first 10 months of 2011, year-on-year, he said, adding: “The situation is difficult, but the trends are positive.”

However, the rate of closing crime investigations has also decreased by 6 percent in 2011, including an 11-percent drop in the number of especially severe offenses solved, Kudeneyev said. Only 17 percent of thefts, which make up more than half of all crimes registered in Moscow since the beginning of the year, have been solved, he added.