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Monday, June 02, 2008

EDITORIAL: Its Own Worst Enemy

EDITORIAL

Russia: Its Own Worst Enemy

It was widely reported last week that the U.S. Army thinks it has a crisis on its hands.

115 American soldiers committed suicide last year, up nearly 13% from the year before. With just over 500,000 soldiers in the U.S. all-volunteer army, that works out to a rate of 19 suicides per 100,000 soldiers. Though the rate of suicide in the U.S. armed forces is lower than that in the general population, the military still thinks it is much too high, and they’re planning to take dramatic steps to reduce the rate.

They might relax a bit if they took a look at Russia.

Although Russia’s population is less than half the size of America’s, Russia uses conscription to draft hundreds of thousands of young men into the army each year, and fields ground forces of roughly the same size as the United States. And the Moscow Times reports that the Russian army experienced nearly three times more suicides last year than did its American counterpart — a shockingly high 341 Russian soldiers took their own lives last year.

These lives were lost due to terror and depression flowing from the barbaric, ritualistic hazing process that befalls all new recruits and is known in Russia as dedovschina. In one case, a recruit was so brutally tortured that the entire lower half of his body had to be amputated, including his genitals. As a result, a massive corrupt industry has been spawned in Russia whereby bribes are paid by young men’s parents in order to avoid the horror of military service.

Nobody can victimize a Russian better than another Russian, something that's been true right the way through Russian history and makes gibberish out of Russian fears of and hatred for foreigners.

And let’s be clear: The Russian Kremlin is ruled by a proud KGB spy who has liquidated all political opposition and wiped out the independent media. In other words, he’s a natural born liar and there is no check on his statements. So that figure of 341 suicides is almost surely a gross understatement. Russia is claiming that this year's number is a reduction of 15% over last year, although not a single concrete policy step to reduce dedovschina, or any other suicide-motivating factor, can be identified. We believe that the Kremlin is simply lying, articulating the largest possible reduction is thinks it can get away with.

Clearly, the Russian army’s most dangerous foe is . . . itself.

As is so often the case with Vladimir Putin's Russia, American problems don't look nearly so serious when they are compared to that neo-Soviet nightmare. One Russian person kills him/herself
every ten minutes in Russia (that adds up t0 60,000 per year or 41 suicides per 100,000 people -- only Lithunania has more). That just about says it all, doesn't it? This figure is four times higher than for the United States.

Russia’s problem, in other words, is compared to America's an urgent crisis, while America’s just isn’t. Russia has a net loss from its population of up to 1 million people per year owing to a wide variety of problems including suicide at a frenetic pace, while America is growing by leaps and bounds. Thus, if Russia doesn’t solve its problem, it will simply cease to exist. People wait in line for years to enter the United States' "golden doors," while nobody at all -- other than Russians being booted out of former Soviet republics, is waiting to enter Russia.

Yet, even though America's problem isn't nearly as serious, Americans are prominently and publicly debating the issue and actively looking to reform and improve. What is Russia doing? It's covering up the information and proceeding as if there were no problem. It's jailing opposition critics like Oleg Kozlovsky and squelching reporting on TV and in print, so in fact there's no information to debate even if critics were free to do so. This is exactly what happened in the USSR, an unreformed behemoth gradually declining into torpor and disaster, and now Russians are doing it all over again, handing power to proud member of the clan of KGB thugs who destroyed the nation the first time.

When will they ever learn?

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