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Monday, March 10, 2008

EDITORIAL: Seeing Russia

EDITORIAL

Seeing Russia

According to the Russian government's propaganda, the city of Moscow received 296,513 visits from Germans last year -- the most visits the city received from any nation outside the former USSR.

That's nice. But in 2006, according to New York City records, the Big Apple received 420,000 visits from Germans -- and Germans were only in third place overall, far behind the United Kingdom with over a million visitors. The United States was in second place behind Germany in sending tourists to Moscow, according to Kremlin data -- yet Russia wasn't even in the top 15 countries sending tourists to New York City. China was in third place in sending tourists to Moscow, yet it sent virtually the same number of tourists to New York City and ranked only #16 there. Overall, Moscow claimed 4 million tourists while New York City had 7.25 million - nearly twice as many.

These are damning statistics. They irrefutably show not only that Americans are far more willing to reach out towards Russia than vice versa, they show that Russians are antagonizing the entire world to a breathtaking extent, utterly failing to act like a civilized nation that can build friendships with other countries.

And when you then think about the fact that America has many other famous international tourist cities (Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando) while Russia has at most one (St. Petersburg), you then realize the true extent to which tourism to the United States overall dwarfs tourism that to Russia - it's the same extent to which the mighty U.S. economy and military pulverize their Russian counterparts. Go further, and realize that no thinking person can credit statistics offered by the Kremlin as being remotely accurate, and you'll see that Russia is in fact being utterly repudiated by the tourists of the civilized world. Kommersant for instance reports that last year 9.4 million Russians left the country as tourists, but only 2.2 million foreigners entered Russia as tourists and concludes "similar to the country’s economy, the tourism is the export-targeted here." The paper states: " The number of tourist trips to Russia sank 9 percent vs. 2006."

What makes Russia so repugnant compared to a country like the United States which is supposedly hated by the entire world, and one with a far smaller amount of actual territory for tourists to actually visit?

Well, the main thing of course is that Russians simply hate foreigners and want to destroy them. Why else would a country with such a puny economy be baiting and provoking the entire Western World into a new cold war war and arms race? When Russians were asked whether foreign tourists were welcome in their country, their answer placed them #119 out of 124 countries surveyed (see page 443 of the report) by the World Economic Forum. Thus, it's no big surprise to learn that while the U.S. ranked #5 in the world in overall tourism competitiveness, "mighty" Russia ranked a pathetic #68 out of 124 (see page xvi of the report).

Then there's the cruelty and barbarism at home. Take for instance the recent report from Forbes magazine that Russia has more billionaires than any other country but the U.S. The 87 Russians who made the Forbes list of world's wealthiest people control almost $500 billion between them -- roughly half of one-year's total GDP for the entire country. This clan of Putin cohorts is sucking the blood of the impoverished nation (Russia isn't in the world's top 50 nations for purchasing power per capita GDP) like leeches, no different than what the Tsar and his court were doing to Russia's peasants a hundred years ago -- leading to the Bolshevik revolution -- and no different from what the Bolsheviks themselves then did, leading to their own downfall. The repugnance of seeing this kind of wealth displayed next to men who don't live on average to see their sixtieth year and work for $4/hour on average is enough to turn anyone's stomach.

And on top of that, to say nothing of the raw danger of visiting Russia (it has the world's fifth highest murder rate, for instance, and widespread pollution and disease leading to the loss of up to 1 million Russians from the population each year) and the godawful levels of police corruption and medical care, there's Russian hypocrisy. Russia insists that Chechnya is nobody's business but Russia's, and demands that the world leave Kosovo to Serbia, yet it has no problem actively supporting separatist regions in other countries, like Georgia for example, and uses tactics of energy blackmail to bludgeon places like Ukraine. Russia wails to high heaven about "unilateralism" from the United States, then turns around and delivers exactly that attitude towards the former Soviet slave states. Russia complains about America provoking a new cold war, yet it is Russia and not America that is buzzing the other side with nuclear bombers. How can anyone possibly take a country like this even remotely seriously as a civilized partner?

As has always been the case with Russia, the country believes it can use propaganda and sleight of hand to simply fool the world into believing it is attractive. The idea of a "Potemkin Village" rather than actual reform is a constant right the way through Russian history, and the Kremlin's recent attempts at PR blitzes are just another step along that road. The pathetic attempt of Russia Today, the Kremlin's state-owned TV propaganda campaign, to use Josef Stalin as a pitchman, is really all you need to know. Russians, just like their Soviet predecessors, really believe they are that much smarter than the rest of the world that they can get away with things like this. They live in a world of total isolation from real self analysis and criticism, the world of the Emperor's New Clothes, the world that destroyed itself many times in the past and goes merrily on doing the same without repentance, headed for oblivion.

The most recent indication of Russia's neo-Sovietization was the purchase by Gazprom of the Russian version of YouTube. The Kremlin owns Gazprom, Gazprom owns YouTube, and the people of Russia strut around naked, preening as if covered in mink.


12 comments:

Phil said...

Interesting article, but it failed to mention that part of the reason fewer Russians visited the U.S. is likely due to the difficulties in obtaining a tourist visa for a Russian citizen.

Russia of course has it's own byzantine regime when it comes to issuing visas but they DO issue them. Certainly not speedily, nor cheaply, but they do come.

Typically the only way a Russian gets a tourist visa to the U.S. is if they can demonstrate the following:

1) Previous travels to other countries and can show that they returned to Russia on time

2) A compelling reason such as young children, registered businesses or significant bank / real estate holdings (owning an apartment doesn't count)

3) Are not single women between the ages of 17 and 70.

Information taken from the US Consulates website clearly states that ALL non-immigrant visas are processed on the assumption that the visa holder will NOT return. So much for innocent until proven guilty.

While it's no picnic for an American to get a Russian visa, for a Russian to get an American visa is indeed a daunting task. Obviously it CAN be done, but not without difficulty.

La Russophobe said...

Interesting comment.

It overlooks, however, the fact that more than a million British people visited the USA. So if indeed America is making it more difficult for Russians to visit the U.S. than for Britons, perhaps Russian policy needs to be adjusted to achieve more friendly relations? And if so, you will be hard-pressed to name one single protest by the people of Russia calling for such actions that has occurred at any time while Vladimir Putin has been in charge, much less any actions he has taken on his own. Rather, the people of Russia have consistently supported aggressive confrontation with the United States.

It's hardly meaningful to claim that more Russians would visit the U.S. if they could when they are ratifying their government buzzing Americans with nuclear bombers and blocking UN action against Iran while selling weapons to Venezuela. Of course, maybe you weren't suggesting that, but if you weren't then it's a pretty moot point.

Anonymouse said...

More Russians would visit the U.S. if the U.S. relaxed its visa regulations. A lot more. Problem is, they wouldn't go back home. Hence the regs.

karLos said...

Friendly relations with the US don't guarantee visa free travel. Look how long the Czechs, Poles and the Balts have been kept waiting...

La Russophobe said...

KARLOS:

It's hard to look, since you don't provide any data. Can you?

ANONYMOUSE:

Hard to imagine how that could be so, since Vladimir Putin is so sure Russia is a paradise on Earth while America is a Hell, and he's never wrong about anything.

karLos said...

LR,
no need to be rude. it's been all over the news.

here is a (respected) example from edward lucas. even friends have no quick easy tickets:

http://edwardlucas.blogspot.com/2008/03/visas.html

La Russophobe said...

KARLOS:

There's nothing the least bit rude about asking for documentation of factual claims, not that we have any hesitation in being rude with necessity when we see fit.

Edward is a great journalist, but the fact that he's written about something doesn't mean it's "all over the news," I'm sure you'll agree.

If you read what Edward wrote, you'll see that he states Slovenia has "gained visa-free travel to America." This proves quite conclusively that countries with sufficiently good relations with the USA can travel there as much as they like very easily. So the question is, why doesn't Russia want to be one of those countries? And you don't begin to come close to even trying to answer that question.

The Czechs, the article says, are getting expedited treatment as well. But not Russia. Now, to be sure, the article does indicate that America might be a bit behind the times in easing travel for Poles as well, but there is no data that Poles who want to travel to the US are being PREVENTED from doing so, only delayed somewhat, and that may well change because of Edward's urging.

Frankly, we think your point is utterly stupid and totally disingenuous. Maybe good relations with the US do not GUARANTEE easy visa access, but how would Russia know whether they would or not, since Russia has ABYSMAL relations with the US? Shouldn't Russia establish good relations and then complain, as Poland is doing?

Whether or not you are one, you sound, for all the world, like a Russophile idiot, putting the visa cart before the relations horse in the manner of Soviet propaganda and totally ignoring the clear data we present showing outright hostility of Russians towards foreigners.

Russians can't complain about bureaucratic headaches in travel to the US while they are buzzing us with nuclear bombers, now can they? Yet, you show no sympathy for that fact with your one-sided diatribe, helping Russians to continue on their failed course.

Do you really hate them that much? What did they ever do to you?

karLos said...

Friendly relations with the US don't guarantee visa free travel. That was my original point, and the entirety of that point. I didn't actually mention Russia, but referred to the countries actually expecting this status.

Russia as potential enemy of the US politically and strategically shouldn't have access to the visa waiver scheme in my opinion (especially with drugs, arms and terrorists running rampant there) -- and countries that have earned it in various ways have been kept waiting too long. That is my opinion... fire away!

Your extreme aggressive reaction to a two line non argumentative comment is unnecessary. I wasn't engaging in whataboutism, more making a small comment. But don't worry, I won't do it again.

Anonymous said...

Question to the author of the post.
You say that Russia Today is propaganda.
Have you at least watched it to make such a judgement?

La Russophobe said...

Answer to the author of the comment:

Yes. Most recently, we watched RT's interview with Nina Krushcheva. Pure propaganda, from start to finish. And godawful stilted English accent from the RT host on top of it. YUCK!

Questions to the author of the comment:

(1) We've also written about RT in detail on this blog. Have you read our posts before commenting?

(2) You say that Russia Today isn't propaganda. Have you at least looked at its ownership? Have you watched it? Can you link us to JUST ONE STORY that is a hard-hitting critique of Vladimir Putin?

Anonymous said...

Watching just one news story is not enough to say that RT is propaganda.

IMHO, you seem to confine yourself to vague generalities - nothing more. Unfortunatelly.

What is BBC & CNN then? Also propaganda? France 24? Deutsche Welle? CCTV?

Some of them are also supported by goverment.

Btw, I saw the article on RT in your blog. And I also noticed the RT response to that.

La Russophobe said...

Excuse us, you scum-sucking piece of filth, but we didn't say we watched ONLY ONE. We watch it ALL THE TIME. We just said that was the MOST RECENT we watched.

You're engaging in propaganda to defend propaganda. We asked you a question about Putin and you didn't answer, even though we answered yours. We're done with you now, you ridiculous little KGB troll.

The BBC does hard negative pieces on the British government every week. You can't name a single one Russia Today has EVER done on Putin.

Case closed.