Dialog with Denis (a young Russian living in Europe)

For five or six years I have been exchanging emails with a young Russian now living in London. Denis is ambitious and fought hard to study in Europe and work in the West. He is also clearly a very patriotic Russian who loves his country deeply. He has often responded very favorably to my criticisms of my own country. I recently sent him an article in the Washington Post written by Oleg Kozlovsky, a young Russian now in a Russian jail for civil disobedience. Kozlovsky’s article criticized former President, now Prime Minister, Putin’s leadership of Russia. Following is Denis’s angry reply and my follow up note to him, which launched a longer series of exchanges than I had expected. This will be way too much for most of you but if you are interested you will gain some insight into how America’s recent behavior is seen by many abroad or at least by one quite sensitive Russian young man who remains very angry that his requested visa to visit the United States was denied.

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May 19, 2008

Dear Warren,

Thank you for your attention. But do all you Americans think like this???? My friend from NYC also sent me some black PR and lies from The New York Post which raised my hair up of what is written? Warren, in order to see, feel and understand modern Russia you must visit it and talk to as many people as you can, but not with some paid by Americans or Europeans persons like Garry Kasparov or Oleg Kozlovsky, some of them representing simply xenophobic moods of some Russians who are simply fed up of illegal immigrants (you know that Russia is number 2 country after the U.S. according illegal immigration), some people do not follow letter of law when arranging meetings and illegal demonstrations or marches in places where they can not do that according our internal laws and disturb other citizens with their behavior and anarchy, WHICH IS NOT FREEDOM OF SPEECH OR HUMAN RIGHTS! YOU MUST DISTINQUISH NOW LIBERTY, FREEDOM OF SPEECH, DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS FROM YOUR OWN DOUBLE STANDARDS AND INTERNAL FEARS. REAL VALUES OF KINDNESS AND GOOD ARE REPLACING YOUR WESTERN VALUES OF PSEUDO-LIBERTY AND ANARCHY AND ABUSE OF POWER ANYWHERE AND WHAT EVER YOU WANT! IT IS WRONG AND A MAJOR MISUNDERSTANDING IN DOHA ROUND AND SIMPLY BETWEEN RICH AND POOR NATIONS. WARREN, BELIEVE ME OR NOT BUT FROM MY ANALYSIS AND UNDERSTANDING OF CURRENT RUSSIAN ISSUES ALMOST 90% OF WHAT IS WRITTEN AND PAID FOR BY ANTI-RUSSIAN POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC FORCES AND PERSONS ARE LIES AND BULLSHIT IN WESTERN MASS MEDIA, READ MORE RUSSIA TODAY.COM, PRAVDA.RU, AL JAZEERA, CCTV, AND OTHER CHANNELS FROM CONTRIES FOR WHICH YOU DO NOT HAVE OBJECTIVE OPINION AND ONLY PREJUDICES, LACK OF UNDERSTANDING OF CULTURAL DIFFERENCES, FEAR OF THEIR GROWING MIGHT AND POWER AND POLITICAL + ECONOMIC INFLUENCE IN THE WORLD AND IT IS SAID THAT AMERICA AND EU ARE TRYING TO POINT TO SOME MYSTICAL EXTERNAL ENEMY IN THE 21ST CENTURY WHICH THEY’VE CREATED FROM NOTHING OR BY THEIR OWN PROUDNESS, GREEDINESS AND MONEY DESIRE, FEAR AND ENVY + OTHER SINS……….I THOUGHT YOU WERE DIFFERENT AND ESPEC IALLY WITH YOUR EXPERIENCE AND COMMUNICATION , THAT YOU SAW MANY DIFFERENT PEOPLE AND WORLD, BUT STILL YOU SEE THE WORLD THROUGH YOUR AMERICAN AND PERHAPS OWN (BUT STILL HIGHLY INFLUENCED) IDEOLOGICAL PRISM OF PREJUDICES, FALSE VISION AND MISCONCEPTIONS………… I DONT KNOW HOW MONEY AND YOUR WORK IN IMF DEALING CONSTALY WITH MONEY CAN REFLECT IT BUT I HONESTLY FEEL HOW IT SMELLS……..

DO NOT WNAT TO OFFEND YOU SOMEHOW AND IF YOU WILL FEEL IN THIS WAY, PLS FORGIVE MY WAY OF EXPRESSION MYSELF, WE ARE ALL HAVING OUR NEW DEMOCRACIES NOW AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH, BUT HOPE YOU CAN UNDERSTAND MY CONCERN, MY FRIEND….. HOW I WANNA MEET YOU PERSONALLY ONE DAY

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND WELLCOME TO RUSSIA!

DENIS

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Dear Denis,

Thank you for your letter, but you disappoint me. You are clearly a patriotic Russian, a positive attribute in my opinion, and love Russia very much (more now that you no longer live there, it seems to me). But I fail to see the critical assessment of developments in your country that, in my view, true love requires. I am a very patriotic American and deeply love my country and its values and principles. It is precisely this love and respect that leads me to be so critical of actions and policies that violate those principles.

My impressions and understanding of the situation in Russia today comes from many sources. I know many Russians, though most now live here in the U.S. My own travels to Russia have been limited to Moscow and St Petersburg, but I have met many Russians during my many trips to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova. On May 8 I attended a lecture here in Washington about the Russian economy by Petr Aven, President of Alfa Bank and Mikhail Fridman, Chairman of the supervisory board of Alfa Group. Mr. Aven was Russia’s Minister of Foreign Economic Relations in the early 1990s. Alfa Bank is Russia’s largest private bank and Messieurs Aven and Fridman are hardly paid western lackeys (Aven). Their conclusions are that the Russian economy is hollow, resting on the flush of oil revenues that will not last for ever (output has actually been declining for the last few years). Mr. Aven’s said that one of the best things that could happen to Russia would be oil prices below $50 or $60 per barrel as it would force the restart of more serious economic reforms needed if Russia is to really build a strong economy.

Regrettably two American friends who provided many insights into the situation in today’s Russia are now band by the Russian government from returning to Russia because of their association with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian oil oligarch still in a Russian jail as an example to anyone else who would challenge Putin and Russia’s political leaders. In today’s Post Masha Lipman documents the systematic stiffening of public debate in Russia, including the murder and imprisonment of many journalists. Putin’s Puppet Press . As a friend, I warn you that this is the beginning of a disease that will not be healthy for Russia.

I understand that Russians have historically wanted stronger government control of economic and civil life and that your “democracy,” as you call it, will look different than the western democracies defined preeminently by the rule of law. However, if you do not apply the same critical scrutiny to the policies and actions of Russia’s (can we say Putin’s) government that you earlier applauded in my notes about America, I predict that Russia will fail to achieve the greatness you dream of. Such greatness cannot be achieved by manufacturing disputes with neighbors in an effort to gain attention and respect. Russia today reminds me increasingly of Iran, not the great Persian country and culture of the past but the inwardly insecure and pathetic (but potentially dangerous) Iran of Mr. Ahmadinejad. But he will pass and I have hope for the reestablishment of a great Persia in the future. The world would be a richer place for it. I have the same hopes for Russia, but not unless bright, energetic young men like you are critical of Russia’s mistakes and supportive of its proper strengths.

Best wishes,

Warren

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May 21, 2008

Thanks for your attention, but I do not see a big difference in you and other American society which is fed by such anti-Russian articles daily from all U.S. mass media. Just have a look on Carnegie Centre in Moscow and it’s financing organization participants list: http://www.carnegieendowment.org/about/index.cfm?fa=funding

and tell me if this is not a 4th power of media used by U.S. government like Voice of America in early 90s to promote and export it’s "democracy" and justify Guantanamo and Abu Greib murders, tortures, lies, and the worst values I despise!

I thought you can easily see the TRUTH and DIFFER WHAT IS GOOD AND TRUE FROM WHAT IS NOT and as far as I am concerned your knowledge and opinion about Russia or Russian-US relations are different from my perception and views. THE WORLD HAS CHANGED AND RUSSIA IS NOT WHAT YOU USED TO LAUGH AT DURING YELTSIN TIMES!

Warren, I hope is quite clear who pay for these articles and support them, just to mention U.K. Department for International Development U.S. Department of Defense U.S. Department of Energy U.S. Department of State and OIL MONSTERS of the U.S. and it will become clear what they pursue and why. Just talk with them if you will have a chance and ask about their real targets and motivations, then maybe your eyes will be open and you will wake up. "The Truth is Out There" – from X-Files.:-) and what about Masha-poor journalist who works hard to get paid from this foundation in order to feed her family and have a bread with butter on her breakfast table.

GOD BLESS RUSSIA!

Back to you.

Denis

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May 21, 2008

Denis,

We were not laughing at Yeltsin, we were cheering him. He was sending Russia on a path to be great again. When he bought his second election with the oligarchs, things began to go down hill and he began to become laughable. We (and I think most Russians — but how would I know?) had high hopes that Putin would clean up Yeltsin’s mess and resume Russia’s path toward rebuilding its productive strength. For a while it looked like he might. His chief economic advisor from 2000 – 2005, Andrei Illarionov, was helping direct policy in the right (more competitive market oriented) direction. Andrei is now here in Washington, having resigned because of the corruption and misdirection of the Putin government. I meet with him from time to time and find him very insightful about Russian economic policy. Because he criticizes his government does that make him a traitor or Western stooge to you? I find him much more believable about what is happening in Russia than the self serving propaganda coming from the Kremlin. Where is the critical debate in Russian press, pro and con, that we have so much of here in American debating every aspect of American policy (Abu Greib and all the rest)? Too much power corrupts, whether in Russia or America. One of our strengths is that we continually struggle to limit the power of our government in order to minimize that corruption and that has helped make us great. Russia would do well to finally learn that lesson.

It amazes me that you so unquestioningly accept the information coming from Kremlin controlled news outlets in Russia (one ultimate source) while doubting the many competing sources available in the West. Some have their own interests to promote, but the self interest of most free journalists is to get the news out and to be accurate. In any event we have many competing sources of information and you have one. I am afraid that you are the one with your eyes closed. In my opinion, such closed mindedness will not serve the best interests of Russia (or the rest of us).

Warren

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May 21, 2008

Warren,

You misunderstood, of course I am not happy about some economic slow developments and way of life ordinary people live in Russia, but all I wanted to say is that it is constantly improving (looking at my parents and friends) and is becoming a more affordable and wealthy society. But in western mass media they write only bad negative things and try to spoil all image of Russia devaluating it’s contribution in world’s politics, sports, arts and culture, they concentrate on political murders like Litvinenko in the UK and nobody knows what’s happened in reality or other mistakes/necessary changes maybe not appreciated now but which should be a necessary platform for the prosper future.

What Mr. Illarionov was trying to do during his time? To liberalize economy, i.e. to sell for free to westerners major strategic assets and competitive producers and swamp Russian market with cheap imports profitable for you only and not for local manufacturers and Russians. The time when people were stupid enough to believe this has gone in the past and nowadays Russia is becoming more and more self-sufficient (no credit crunch) and prosperous state.

Maybe there is not enough mass media liberty I would agree, but I am not an expert but what for instance was Anna Politkovsksya, a U.S. passport holder, murdered (criminal and not political to my mind) writing about Chechnya? Was it all truth or political propaganda paid for clearly by the U.S. affiliated interest groups and political people? You never know. But when I see how US mass media cover Putin’s or other Russian government official’s current work and speeches, negatively , aggressively, I feel sorry for people who make money in such a way. Instead they would better concentrate on Hillary’s lie on public about her achievements in Bosnia and Northern Ireland, rhetoric and threat for innocently accused Iran and they should better try to justify invasion of Iraq, public money spending and debt, credit crisis and repossessions, Indian population human rights and reservations, give freedom to Vermont (US Kosovo) state and keep cleaning it’s own house!

By the way, I observe many information sources and have direct free access not only to competitive Russia press , but western as well (EU and Arabic, Chinese and Korean) which I read and can see the difference when in Chinese press they mention Russian forces helping to excavate ruins after earthquake and their valuable contribution including medical supplements, mobile hospitals and so on , and in the U.S. I read articles written by an employee, as a last example, funded by US MOD, Congress and oil/gas companies including Chevron/Exxon, which had not followed Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and ecological standards, including delays of production, which is economically called complete waste of natural resources, and therefore experienced licensing problems in Russia and Kazakhstan. So, this is a difference. I see that US foreign policy became very unfriendly to Russia and Russians who believed you after collapse of the USSR and all came out as a lie and misleading. Take as an example Czech Republic and Poland anti-ballistic missile defence systems. Against "rogue" states of Iran and N. Korea? In the Northern Europe close to St. Petersburg and Murmansk? You might be kidding or Condy with Gates. To protect whom? EU? without even asking their permission and ignoring EU stability ? American must change it’s tone and behavior with Russia and China in particular and the rest of the world, then only ordinary Americans will benefit.

Latest news: American Airlines are cutting fleet by 13% and cutting jobs as there is no demand anymore from people like me who were rejected fucking tourist visa to visit their friends! Good luck!

Denis

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May 23, 2008

Denis,

Mr. Illarionov was indeed a champion of liberalizing the Russian economy, a process started by Gorbachev because the centralized control of production was slowly sinking the Russian economy. This does not mean selling cheaply to foreigners (though many Russian firms were worthless and no one would want to buy them), but getting productive resources into private hands where there is a profit incentive to use them well. When the very Russian Mr. Khordokovski bought up oil reserves (though under questionable circumstances) he took failing and unproductive oil fields and made them productive and profitable. Now that the Russian government has taken them back from him (stolen them, I would say), they are losing productivity again. Russia’s oil output is falling in recent years. Its oil revenue remains high only because oil prices are so high. The rest of the economy is doing better than under communism but not nearly what it could or should be doing. Russia’s current income rests almost totally on oil. We can debate what policies are good or bad for Russia and we can have different views, but I am quite amazed that because Mr. Illarionov now criticizes Putin’s economic policies you assume that he is somehow disloyal to Russia and a tool of the west. This is a bit crazy frankly.

I have also not heard the criticisms you mention of Russian “sports, arts and culture.” The whole world has always greatly admired Russian contributions in these areas. Whether America should be critical of some of its own failings, and I have certainly focused most of my attention on providing such criticisms, really has nothing to do with Russia’s failings. You make it sound like a competition and a highly emotional one at that. “Don’t you dare criticize my country, because yours has lots of problems too.” This sounds like grade school kids. For me the issue is what is good for people, all people, Americans and Russians and everyone else. It is not a zero sum game. What increases the pie can increase the slice for everyone. Let’s talk about how to make our countries better, not whether your country is better than mime or visa versa.

Warren

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May 24, 2008

Warren, good morning,

First of all I would like to underline that I am much younger then you and that’s where my youthful maximalism and slightly high tone comes from. I agree that we must do all for a better world, but nothing is impossible and the crucial milestone I see in American foreign policy and colonial attitudes towards the whole world. The U.S. must not and has no moral right to "govern" the world and spread its’ "democratic values" in places where it can not be applied: Iraq, Israel, Iran, Latin America, Russia, China and so on. I am deeply ashamed of Kosovo scenario and know that this Serbian province will never join any international organization and that resolution of the UN 1244 was neglected and ignored as well as invasion by the US in Iraq without resolution of the UN and lie to it’s nation by Britain, its closest for now ally.

If you are talking about making world better then can you explain to me how you/your government behave in such a way and ignore the whole structure of the international law and justice? When I hear speech of paranoiac McCain (who obviously has problems with his head after 6 yrs in Vietnamese prison) about creating League of Democracies to replace the UN where only G7 countries will decide and govern the world, or his announcements to eliminate Russia from G8 (without Russia I don’t think you will ever succeed in your "war against terror" or be able to mediate international conflicts worldwide). I feel sorry and doubt your words in their real meaning.

You say you want to make the world better, but America is doing the opposite. Take for instance a simple example of Hollywood cinema and propaganda, 4th estate, which is re-writing history, making fun and laughing at many nations and their values, history,etc. Thank God, I was advised by a friend of mine to have a look free, illegally if you want on the Internet, latest Indiana Jones film , and Thank God I watched the first 10 mins and did not pay a penny in the cinema for these anti-communist and anti-Soviet propaganda, what they wanted to show in it and how is clear and why? I do not respect such people like Spielberg, Harrison Ford, they are not my heroes and will never be if they continue the "thin line" of their power abuse using cinema in such an arrogant way. It is just a small example, but I hope you know what I mean and how mass media works in the US and worldwide. You always blame lack of freedom in Russian media, but I don’t believe that we, Russians, need your model of liberty of speech, such "free" liberate media where there are no borders controlled and where they can write whatever they want including obvious lies which is destabilizing factor for society and show only low moral values and fears of your society on such shows like Steve Wilkos, Jerry Springer,etc. They are disgusting honestly.

Let’s come back to economics. I know that the IMF came to Moscow a few days ago, so maybe you will manage to extract their latest report and send me a copy, so we can discuss issues. About Khodorkovsky: you know what does it mean and how considered in the U.S. the crime of tax evasion and money laundering, corruption and bribery which he and his people did, including his latest effort to sell 25% Yukos stake to an American oil company. I may suspect that he was a "beaten caught boy" and some other oligarchs should follow his way, but that is not the case now in new Russia and results of dishonest privatization past and voucher system which probably you consulted to Gorbachev post-people as well has gone in the past. It brought many people in poverty which they realized and will never forgive now. Russia could chose a better way, Chinese style model at least in economy, but what Gaidar and his team did "shock therapy" was a torture for Russian people and society. So, here I want again to underline that your model of capitalism and economy did not work in Russia and won’t work due to our national specifics, geography and national character.

About Russian sports, art and culture: I see only anti-dopping scandals are coming more and more, false accusations, double standards of judgement including last Salt Lake City Olympics and brilliant victory of Russian dancers who then were judged and had to divide golden medal with a Canadian couple which was a head below their level and French judge met highest pressure from Olympic Committee reps (mostly Americans) at that time to change her opinion and free evaluation of her choice who must be the leader. It is sad, but lots of misconceptions and double standards are carried and alternative false vision is supported by Americans. We can talk and talk, but what do you know about Russian culture at all when you don’t have yours?

I visited recently small place called Claire in Suffolk county of England where unique architecture of 12th century buildings was preserved. I visited the main museum and their was a story that Americans wanted to buy like they bought London bridge and many other historic valuables from Ireland, England and worldwide to bring them to America, but local Englishman refused them. I left a message in their book that thanks God you resisted and protected it from being taken and consumed by Americans and Englishman was so proud to hear it from Russian and fully supported it. I wonder from where it comes from the desire to take over, to consume , to destroy somebody’s culture, their heritage, their identity by Americans and the answer is simple from their own absence of self-identification and young history. You can’t buy the world and America should not be a single Enterprise, Corporation, Inc. and spread this culture around the Globe. Only when you will learn to respect what you don’t have and can not have, respect the culture, values of other nations then people will be more friendly to the U.S.. Nowadays you can obviously note that everybody hates America: middle east for wars, EU for strong euro, Britain for their hesitation of self-determination (To Be or Not to Be part of the Europe and European values or together as an American puppet?).

About criticism in general: Warren, I do criticize many issues in modern Russia, but believe me America does not have to dictate and tell us what to do when they don’t have any experience with what it means to govern the largest and the biggest country in the world with huge natural resources and unique human capital which gave to the world Gagarin, Tchaikovsky, Tolstoi, Mendeleev and many others. We are looking for our own way and do not need advice on how to establish and apply somebody’s patterns and templates. You simply do not understand what Russians want and are ready to sacrifice for. This lack of knowledge and basic understanding come from primitive test educational system in the US where 12% of population does not have basic secondary education even due to affordability and we don’t want this ever to happen in Russia and imply this capitalism "help yourself" model in our ancient stable society, or apply American style health system. Huh, what are we talking about and how can you give me the US as an example, country which still practicing death penalty – not the best example for democracy and show on TV assassination of Saddam Hussein – shame on this public show and clear demonstration of American double-standards democracy! About your economy, oil prices and consumer values and devouring behavior: yesterday Ugo Chavez said that high oil prices (135USD per barrel Brent light) are only manipulation of Americans, now we see that your government is trying to blame OPEC in lack of production and find a guilty idiot to point to, but we all understand how price of oil and demand in calculated and the reason is in overconsumption and huge demand from Americans and what the fuck are we talking about when I know and saw on TV that fat americans use their car to drive 50 meters to buy in the supermarket something, is it a reasonable deed? NO! All of them demand airconditioning in a car, lights and illuminations are everywhere, and why I wonder does the US not open its’ reserves in Alaska and other places, keeping for its’ future and sucking all out of the other world now? Rapid demand from India and China is part of the reason , but they have every right to develop themselves quicker then you with your 2.5% GDP growth annually, they suffered enough during centuries of poverty and western rule.

Maybe as an economist you can tell me your vision and forecast for oil price in the nearest future? Will it be 200 USD as predicted now? Will we have more regional conflicts and wars from poor third world nations swamped by hunger, lack of free water and rocketing commodity prices? How does US help? USAid and UNAid is a small drop in the ocean and that’s what Nigerians fight for in Niger delta, or in Sierra Leone, Kongo, Liberia for their blood diamonds of life. It is sad that the US took unilaterally right to be an executioner where they want and how they want, but as our great Alexander Nevsky, who defeated Sweds and Poles on Ladoga beautiful lake 1215 said "Who will come on our land with a sword , will die from it’s own sword" and that is part of our national character and patriotism, different from US Patriot Act allowing US government to spy on people , listening their phone conversation, reading post, having access to sensitive private data and making Americans more insecure in their newly born police-CCTV-state model.

You need a revolution in your own minds and lands and maybe new changed "WE BELIVE IN" will come (from Barak Obama with a hope for better American future).

Sincerely,

Denis

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May 24, 2008

Denis,

Thank you for your interesting comments. This is getting rather long and I want to be brief and thus will not comment on every thing you have said. I want to focus on two points that come up in your note.

I sense that an important difference in our views rests on a very different view of how we relate to or are identified with our countries and governments. You said; “If you are talking about making the world better then can you explain to me how you/your government behave in such a way….” You equate me with my government (“you/your government”). Perhaps you react so emotionally to criticisms of Russia because you equate yourself with Russia. This is a big difference between us. I love my country because of the principles of human dignity and liberty, self reliance and responsibility, limited government, checks and balances on which it is based and because of which it has become the wealthiest and strongest nation in history (if we want air conditioners in our cars, and can afford them, what’s the problem?). But I hate it when it violates those principles, which it often does. My first commitment is to those principals, because I believe they serve the betterment of man kind, not to my country. My country is full of many good hearted people and a few mean and nasty ones. As you have said, there are some in my government who have imperialist impulses and wish to push our values on others (rather then offer them for consideration). It does not bother me when you complain about such people. Why should it? They are not me, and I have sharply criticized them myself.

We also have very different views on the role of and importance of a free press and artistic expression (which is one aspect of a free press). I have not seen the new Indiana Jones film yet. It opens here today. Russians generally manage to see Hollywood films before we do (is it a general lack of respect for property rights, the foundation of capitalism? Just joking – sort of). I agree that films, books, the press have an important influence on how we see things and what we think. However, one of the great strengths of the West (to use that short hand – or of the civilized world as Russians generally call it to my face) is that we are not afraid of open discussion and believe it strengthens us as a people and helps limit the potentially dangerous power of our (or any) government. What Spielberg is free to say, others are free to dispute. Competition is the ultimately controlling force rather than who ever sits in the high seat of government. How would Olympic scandals like the very controversial Salt Lake City judgment about the Russian and Canadian dancers receive the public debate it had without a free press?

You complained that the Indiana Jones film was anti communist and anti Soviet. I thought Putin and all modern Russians were anti-communist, having seen first hand the huge failure of that economic system. Do you think Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s damning descriptions of Soviet life were western propaganda or anti modern Russia? Is that the Russia you want to defend? I doubt it, so I am not sure what your point is.

A few quickies: 1. Europeans hate us because of the strong EURO (which allows them to buy our goods cheaply)?? A few years ago they (though no doubt a different group of them) hated us because of the weak EURO (which made our goods too expensive for them). 2. All IMF reports are on their website so you can get it as soon as I do. 3. I love Sergei Eisenstein’s great 1938 classic film Alexander Nevsky with its beautiful music score by Sergei Prokofiev and have seen it many times (once on the huge screen at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts with a live orchestra). The torch scene on the frozen lake after the battle with its haunting melody is magical. 4. I also find Jerry Springer disgusting, but I don’t fear him. I would fear a government with the power to decide who and what was good for me to see. 5. Russia can do things its own way as long as we can do things our way. However, as long as Russia’s century’s old culture of serfdom persists, the rest of us will be at the mercy of whoever takes and holds power in Russia rather than of the good hearts of the Russian people.

Best wishes,

Warren

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May 25, 2008

Warren,

I see that Russians and Americans are just different from each other and their vision of the world and perception of values and culture are just very different. Answering your questions and comments I will start with why I put you together with your government and officials in one row. To my mind you are as a part of IMF, mostly US funded organization with top seats covered by American nationals, I would presume that you are part of the system, am I wrong? The point is that of course I "equate" myself with Russia, as I am Russian, though born in USSR(Russia) and believe in Russia more then any other time else in my life as I believe in a stronger Europe together with Russia. America is not in my list of priorities or countries to visit after what happened to me and simply is out of my travel plans or connections.It has become irreversible in all senses and I turn my face in a opposite direction. I do help Russia a lot from here now involving Europeans in many good deeds and charity. You can join one of the the Naked Heart Foundation by Natalia Vodyanova – Russian Top Model, 7th top-earner in World’s rating and the wife of a very famous English aristocratic family (www.nakedheart.org).

Warren, I see and know that you love your country like all other people love places where they were born. But I dare to disagree with words about American " human dignity and liberty, limited government, responsibility" – I simply do not agree it applies to modern US where all these values were perverted and neglected. We can debate here for ages but I repeat I do not believe in these nice words when I see what America does internally and externally. About airconditioners, as a small example, I can say only that you think as a real capitalist and consumer, but go beyond that and think about scarce natural resources and short-term profit we gain from exploiting these resources without giving anything back (remark: US even did not sign Kyoto protocol and keeps producing 40% of all greenhouses gases on Earth. I can assure you as a member of Royal Society of Chemistry in London) or subsidies for American agriculture and farmers to produce biodiesel fuel rocketing commodity prices and hunger in the world with this overcosting barbaric initiative.

And I like your reply about "why should I bother? they (government) are not me….." and here you were talking and mentioning responsibility? I think this is clear example of American nationals irresponsibility and value of American dollar as a substitute to real values of dignity, responsibility and so on. In these cases Russians are deeply different from Americans in how they perceive responsibility to their country, but probably when you live in such meting pot of many races, people of different cultures and background where there is no unity on cultural grounds and ideology, beliefs, then the only thing remaining is to worship money and not bother about anything else or how to help anybody and make world better.

About Indiana Jones—it is rubbish, don;t waste your money and time on it, not only political color but just the content and acting. About Russians and Hollywood- that is our answer to new emerging threats and disrespect towards our culture, values and heroes. About free mass media: West is different from the rest of the world and where is the border in your liberty of speech and offence, neglect and discrimination? Do you think that ugly pictures on prophet Muhhamed in Danish and Dutch mass media is a freedom of expression or an offence on many centuries establish values and way of life and beliefs by Muslim people who showed their respond by boycotting Danish dairy products, and breaking western shops and embassies in the Middle East? Do you have—you western world—have the right to express yourself in a such offensive way without apologies and being able to understand that in other parts of the world people live and think differently from you and always will? When you are talking about free mass media I read it as a way of earning and making more money from stories which never existed and had a case, which show lie and describe in offensive way in order to attract Steve Wilkos and Gerry Springer audience to buy and pay for it. And here the leading positions are taken by News Corp, Times-Warner, CNBC, etc. And this usually causes regional and world conflicts set fire to by the US and other western colonial democracies as my newly elected President -Dmitry Anatolievich Medvedev- said in China during his recent visit strengthening relations with our great neighbor and cementing relations for balance in the world and multi-polar world stability. About scandalous figure skating: people do not need debate and disability of their life and results of obvious success-it is a fruit of your paid western media to earn more money on it and make people talk about it like about Tibet or Taiwan – integral parts of Chinese People’s Republic where people have more rights and freedom then Indians in the US or Latin population in southern states.

About modern Russians : you are wrong that modern Russians are anti-communist, moreover they are more nationalistic and proud of the greatest achievements and power of the USSR and Soviet leadership during Great Patriotic War and crucial battles of Moscow, Kursk, Stalingrad, siege of Leningrad and the best example is that none of democratic parties which were quite popular for their widely open mouse during early 90-s did not gain even 1% of votes from free legitimate democratic elections in Parliament last year in Russia. The difference is that Russians respect and give objective truthful analysis of their own and world’s history, which you don’t and I don’t think I can read in your history books about invasions in Caribbean, Guam, Philippines and bloody period of colonial rule by the US during the past 100 years, do I? Alexander Solzhenitsyn was writing ages ago about the system and people—victims of it and cult of personality of Stalin and nothing else. Now as you know he returned and welcomed in Russia and highly condemned and blamed US for Kosovo, Iraq, Iran, Palestine for their deeds and abuse of power. Read his latest interviews and messages. There were many good things on USSR we are proud of—victory against fascism, nazis, Soviet genetics, art, space endeavors and leadership in non-militarized space which US currently oppose with it’s global anti-missile system starting a new arms race involving China, Pakistan,Russia,etc instigating other countries into more regional conflicts, supporting Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka trying to apply Asian Kosovo style model and many other example of Israeli occupied Syrian and Palestine territories and US loss in mediation of Middle East conflict policy resolving.

About Europeans and EU: you might be kidding telling me as an economist that Europeans are happy for weak dollar and that their exports are under threats and whole economies are addicted to US cheap imports and therefore dependence on your goods and services and therefore monopoly and neo-slavery economic dependence. About Alexander Nevsky: here I admit I am proud of you as an American respecting and understanding, appreciating great art and history when millions of your compatriots have never heard of even Tolstoi, Dostoevsky, Chehov, Pushkin and never seen paintings of Aivazovsky, Bryullov, Shishkin, Kandinsky, Chagall, never listened the Nutcracker of Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky or "Ruslan and Lyudmila" by Prokofiev. I was really pleased to know that you have certain class of education and knowledge about it. About your government and what you can see and watch: do you have a reasonable choice and alternative? Have you ever watched Al Jazeera or Russia Today (www.russiatoday.ru) or Euronews or Chinese CCTV or Korean Arirang TV? Do you have an alternative ? What is a major content on American TV channels and what is put in your head from your childhood? Probably new US Patriot Act now how to spy, instigate, lie, be aggressive and rude, cheat on poor and innocent and go ahead to make more money bypassing any barriers of real values cultures and respect to people? The choice in yours………….

Have a lovely Sunday and hope you can agree with all truth i said to you and gave you more thoughts to think about. I hope you can use your status and influence to change the world and first of all America for a better future and change it’s attitude, helping other nations on your IMF level and building together happy dignitive future, prosperity and multi-polar world’s stability. Good luck to you and stay on touch, would love to hear your practical good deeds of you making world better!

Your Russian friend Denis

************************

June 29, 2008

Dear Denis,

My apologies for taking so long to reply.

I have already explained that my loyalty to the great principles upon which my country was founded comes ahead of my loyalty to my current or future governments and thus I will not comment further on that. However, I think you have a wrong understanding of my former job with the IMF. The U.S. voting strength in determining the policies of the IMF is about 18% of the total. The American professional staff is also about the same share of the total professional staff. Americans head only one or two departments. The advice I provide to the countries I visit as an IMF staff reflects both what I understand as a professional economist and the broader policy positions taken by the IMF management, which provide the guidelines (terms of reference) within which I work. These are not controlled by the U.S.

There is a difference in American views on a free press and the views in many other countries. We are more tolerant of bad taste in order to protect genuine artistic and political expression. This can and does create conflicts with many in other countries (such as the pictures of Mohammed). This will not be easy to resolve because other countries will not accept U.S. standards within their own territory and the U.S. will not accept being dictated to by others within U.S. territory. The problem, of course is that information, pictures, etc move very easily across borders. In fact, there has always been considerable debate within the U.S. about where the proper boundary should be about what can be said in the press. That boundary has changed from time to time, but free debate about government policies is always protected (as you can see from my many complaints about my government). Government can never be trusted to control what can be said about itself without great risk to the dissemination of honest information and genuine debate of policies.

You surprise me with your statement that modern Russians are not anti-communist. Your President disagrees with you. Russia has replaced central planning with a market economy and I have heard no one in Russia support returning to central planning (i.e. communism). Yes, Russia has many things to be proud of, but that does not imply that it should be proud of everything it has done. Until you are able to rise about such emotional reactions to criticisms you will have trouble being objective in evaluating issues. Your comments hardly support your claim of Russia’s (your) “objective truthful analysis of their own and world’s history.” But on a simple factual matter you are wrong about American history books. They do contain the facts of every American invasion we have undertaken. You called American colonial rule of the Philippines “bloody.” I dispute that. Filipinos generally consider the period of Japanese rule as repressive and the period of American rule as more enlightened during which education levels were broadened and raised. Even then, like all people (or most all people—I am still wondering about Russians) they eventually wanted to rule themselves and wanted the Americans to leave (which we have done).

Every American with a university education has read Tolstoi, Dostoevsky, Chehov, Pushkin (well, not so much Pushkin), even in high school. My high school orchestra (in which I played the French Horn—now called a freedom horn – just joking) played may Tchaikovsky pieces, even Prokoviev (but he was more difficult to play in high school). Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite is performed all over American at Christmas time every year and on television. We have always admired Russian culture.

You ask me about “what you can see and watch: do you have a reasonable choice and alternative? Have you ever watched Al Jazeera.” Our TV cable services have up to 500 channels. We can watch anything we want. I like watching Al Jazeera’s English channel for a different perspective. I think it is healthy, but I understand you to be saying that such choices are not healthy and not needed and not wanted in Russia. You confuse me sometimes, but I wish you great success and happiness.

Warren

**************************

June 30, 2008

Dear Warren,

You have completely misinterpreted my words about Soviet past of Russia and Russian attitude and analysis of the past. I do not use such words Russians are anti-communist, all I wanted to say was that they were deeply disappointed with expectations and big slogans they were offered in 90-s and today people’s nationalism has grown up enormously especially after series of victories: World Hockey No.1 Champions, Euro-2008 bronze medal, Eurovision concert No.1,etc and people are highly concerned with western promises when they could not keep their word that they would not expand Nato towards east, conventional forces agreement ratification by new EU-states and it’s delay, etc, the trust simply has gone away and people realized who are their real friends and allies. About communist past: believe me many Russians are still proud about glorious Soviet victory against Nazi and terror, proud of space endeavors and discoveries, Soviet genetics and Soviet sport, Soviet global political might and power and image abroad and want it back and have already received with Putin presidency.Also the quality of life has gone up and social expenditures, thanks God to our vast natural reserves and political leadership which lead day by day to prosperity and growth in Russia which I observe now on my parents, friends and classmates and hopefully return back shortly.

If you want to compare Americans and Russians you should always take into account cultural differences and diversity, history and way of life and habits, which differs deeply from American diverse but not unified melting pot of people gathered under common value of $$$USD$$$ and making money obsession which is not our main national character feature. In Russia these kind of "liberties", "freedom of speech or lie?", ongoing depressive critics of political establishment and their enormous effort to develop the biggest country on Earth and manage 1/4 of the planet’s landmass and natural resources as you correctly pointed with unclear borders are considered as a destabilizing factor for our sovereign integrity and national unity and not as a locomotive or driving force of progress via lies, sufferings, giving up, or simply lacerating our national ideology and country’s sustainable progress and development for interests of certain powers/multinational corporations interested only in one thing. So, that’s not what Russian people used to live and grow up and will tolerate in our mentality and values, that’s not what we consider right or simply the best way to achieve certain goals and nobody should dictate or advise us what we should and what we should not, simple as that! Our self-sufficient nation does not need external control over our own resources and human capital and moreover to be leaded from outsiders who do not know even what Siberia is talking about some mass of land in the north of Russia and minus 50 degrees , that’s all. Mysterious Russian soul will be always mysterious for westerners and as our famous Silver Century poet -Fyodor Tyutchev – wrote at the beginning of the 20th century:

(rough translation into English):

"You can not understand Russia with your brain, You can not measure Russia with your measures, Russia has it’s own unique status: You can only believe in Russia!"

and in these words I see a very deep philosophy and understanding myself and our nation.

About modern US foreign policy and "democracy": everyone in the world sees and analyses daily high level authorities abuse of power and manipulation of public opinion, lies and tortures and stringent concentration of controlled democracy, civil liberties and rights in hands of your politicians in this globalised century and pseudo- efforts to concentrate on fighting a new external enemy ( no more USSR) – terrorism, in the UK- is climate change and there are many other examples in the world where this "enemy" takes the form of exaggerated fear that can justify uncontrolled ruling and making wrong decisions. Instead of this US and EU must concentrate on poverty reduction , though not making money off it like the US (Monsanto, Cargill, etc, lobbing GM-seeds and products to resolve world food crisis and maybe bulling commodity prices in NYmex and ICE-Liffe. I think now humanity face a real challenge or unify together and find a balance (which we are still trying in Doha but some rich nations can not get it and give up their consumption lifestyle and destructive behaviour and barbaric subsidies of agricultural policies and their greedy farmers. Or the world will be destabilized and more wars, global threats will come up as a result of it.

About Russian literature: it is not the case in modern US and EU educational policies, maybe it was during your time, but as I see now they are not taught of real values anymore. I saw for instance UK test system which government lobbing for increase in A-level diplomas and degrees in order to be recognized abroad and therefore be more paid then others which Russia will never recognize this level and this knowledge. So, I just passed my GSCE of French which I am actively learning , I passed it in 30 mins with my 9 months studies on my own and a 2 hours class, when pupils in college have to study 5 years to achieve my level and questions were so simplified like what is "tongue" in french —"la langue" from " language" and very easy to guess answers. So, educational standards have dropped enormously, you can track it in the US too even asking some universities how many foreign nationals came in the past years to study (excl EU-nationals or visa-free waiver entrants) and you will see that this institution also suffers a lot due to plummeting student application and rising tuition fees and cost of living in the US. I think a year ago Condy Rice could not make a difference between Slovakia and Slovenia seriously in one summit and it was not an occasional mistake or just a confusion.

About TV: I watch all sorts of TV channels, mostly emerging markets and EU, UK, not American that much at all, because every time I switched to it, there is only one propaganda and anti-Russian foreign policy line and aggression, so basically the only channel I can watch is Bloomberg TV for business news and market situation though it differs from Reuters and other EU market news and facts. Al-Jazeera is interesting channel , at least where you can hear the voice of League of Arab Nation and their perception and view on Palestine genocide and bombings by Israel supported and militarized by the US.

I wish you also all the best and be more objective and make a small contribution as an American national with certain American values for world’s peace and stability and objective public opinion influence and in "CHANGE WE BELIEVE!" (from B. Obama who at least can understand Muslims better then schizophrenic pseudo-hero McCain).

Have a lovely day!

Denis

*************************

July 1, 2008

Dear Denis,

Thank you for clarifying your earlier statement about communism. What you are saying now is more understandable. I also see more clearly that I had not appreciated how humiliating to Russia’s national pride the collapse of the Soviet Union was. For us in the west it was a wonderful event that opened the doors to our friends in Russia to a much brighter future. The replacement of communism (central planning and state ownership of most of the means of production) with a market economy opens the potential for Russia to be much stronger and closer to the rest of the world.

In our view, the great accomplishments of Russia (space, sports, the Great Patriotic War defeat of Germany, etc) were not because of communism, but despite it. These were accomplishments of the Russian people not of a discredited economic and political regime they were forced to live under. Let me suggest to you (reflecting, of course, my American, Western liberal, views), that if you and other Russians become confident and secure enough to criticize shortcomings and weaknesses in your regime and in your government along with praising what is good, Russia may be able to become the great country that matches the greatness of its people.

A Belarusian who lives in my house and a good Russian friend from Novosibirsk have read your comments and do not share them. So at least there is diversity of thought among Russians about whether Putin and his friends are going in the right direction. There is a bit of encouragement in that.

My genuine good wishes to you,

Warren

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About wcoats

Dr. Warren L. Coats specializes in advising central banks on monetary policy, and in the development of their capacity to formulate and implement monetary policy. He is retired from the International Monetary Fund, where, as Assistant Director of the Monetary and Financial Systems Department, he led missions to over twenty countries. Before then, he served as Visiting Economist to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and to the World Bank, and was Assistant Prof of Economics at the Univ. of Virginia from 1970-75. Most recently he was Senior Monetary Policy Advisor to the Central Bank of Iraq; an IMF consultant to the central banks of Afghanistan, Kenya and Zimbabwe; and a Deloitte/USAID advisor to the Government of South Sudan. He is currently a member of the Editorial Board of the Cayman Financial Review and until the end of 2013 was a member of the IMF program team for Afghanistan. His most recent book is entitled "One Currency for Bosnia: Creating the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina."
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One Response to Dialog with Denis (a young Russian living in Europe)

  1. Im not understanding the law here. How are steroids illegal in professional sports yet 95% of pro athletes use steroids. Basically what the laws are telling us is that athletes can use steroids…just don’t get caught. Why crucify people like Barry Bonds and Lance armstrong when it is clearly not just them. It is commmon knowledge amoungst pro athletes that 90%+ of them use steroids. Heck I played college football and at least 80% if not more the the players were suing steroids. Th eonly solutions would be; allow steroids all together and make them legal or do strict/thorough testing before every sports match/game.

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