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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russia Update: January 9, 2015

Publication: Russia Update
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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russian Credit Rating Downgraded To BBB- With Negative Outlook; Ruble And Oil Also Down
A huge blow to the Russian economy:

Bloomberg reports:

“The economic outlook has deteriorated significantly since mid-2014 following sharp falls in the oil price and the ruble, coupled with a steep rise in interest rates,” Fitch [Ratings] said in the statement. “Plunging oil prices have exposed the close link between growth and oil.”

...

The downgrade by Fitch puts it in line with the nation’s assessment by Standard & Poor’s, which cut Russia to BBB- in April. Authorities have responded to the currency crisis with emergency moves that included the biggest interest-rate increase since 1998, a 1 trillion-ruble ($17 billion) bank recapitalization plan and measures to force exporters to convert more of their foreign revenue into rubles.

Crude oil declined steeply today:

And the ruble has had another bad day. It started the day trading at 59.82 for a single US dollar, but is down to 61.93 to a dollar.

XE.com-USD-RUB-Chart-20150109.png

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Low Birth Rates Make Russia An Old Country
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Khodorkovsky Says Threats from Chechen Leader Kadyrov 'No Different' Than Paris Terrorists

Exiled Russian businessman and former political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky responded to a threat against him by Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov issued today. Khodorkovsky had made a call for solidarity with the journalists of Charlie Hebdo slain by terrorists January 7, and has now responded to Kadyrov's threat with a statement on Open Russia, a web site he has created to promote his opposition work. The Interpreter has provided a translation of an excerpt:

Yesterday in the CNN story I saw horrible scenes from Paris. Terrorists armed with machine guns were literally shooting unarmed people straight out, and cold-bloodedly finishing off the wounded.

I instantly reacted to this brutal and senseless retaliation against journalists, calling for the solidarity of the media of the whole world. I wanted to show that the terrorists will not achieve their barbarian purposes, that the answer to such an event can be only solidarity and defense of freedom of speech.

In reply to my statement, propagandists from the Kremlin unleashed a campaign in which they falsely tried to portray my refusal to walk on the leash of murderers as disrespect for Muslims.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic declared me a personal enemy and expressed hope that "volunteers" would be find for retaliation against me.

I heard and took into account the threat of a loyal supporter of Vladimir Putin. This threat does not differ in any way from yesterday's terrorist act in Paris in its aim: its purpose is to intimidate, to deprive me of a voice, to stop speech.

But I said yesterday and I will repeat it again today: we cannot be intimidated. We will firmly stand for free speech -- the basic value of modern society. I am convinced that the absolute majority of Muslims also understand this position and support it.

Khodorkovsky said the Kremlin's propagandists were "siccing fanatics on me in vain." He believes that Muslims of good will would also sympathize with those killed and view his call as a sign of solidarity and a refusal to submit to terror. Among those killed in Paris was a Muslim policeman.

"Terrorists can threaten, they can even take away life. But they can't deprive society of a voice," he said.

(Note: The Interpreter is a project of the Institute for Modern Russia which is funded by Pavel Khodorkovsky, son of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.)

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Is NATO Increasing -- Or Decreasing -- Russian Deterrent In Europe?

The United States has recently announced that they are closing 15 military bases in Europe -- a cost-saving measure which has been controversial in light of Russia's recent revanchist aggression.

Reuters reports:

The changes, including new construction at some bases, were expected to cost $1.4 billion but result in savings of $500 million a year once fully implemented.

Several facilities in Germany would be closed, but overall U.S. troop numbers there were expected to rise a few hundred. Some 500 U.S. personnel would be withdrawn from Lajes Field in the Azores, reducing U.S. troop numbers in Portugal. About 300 troops would be shifted from Germany to Italy.

Assistant Defense Secretary Derek Chollet said the changes in half a dozen European countries would reduce support infrastructure but would not affect the U.S. military's operational capacity in the region.

The Pentagon has justified some of these responses by noting that weapons systems in Europe will be upgraded. For instance, while troops will be reduced in the UK by 2020, the US will be deploying two squadrons of the advanced F-35 Lighting II joint strike fighter. Foreign Policy reports:

That will add up to a net reduction of about 2,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel in Britain. The moves are part of a broader Pentagon plan to close 15 military bases across Europe, which could save about $500 million per year. Currently, more than 74,000 Americans are stationed and working for the U.S. military overseas.

The shift is part of the $985 million “European Reassurance Initiative,” the Obama administration’s effort to bolster European militaries in the wake of Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in March.

But, as FP points out, the F-35 is a deeply-flawed design and has been significantly delayed and will likely not be operational until 2017 at the earliest. Now, the F-35 is a key part of the NATO deterrence plan.

Overall, defense spending by NATO nations in Europe had been decreasing for a long time. Now, after Russia's aggression in Ukraine, that policy is stirring up controversy.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Venediktov To Contact Authorities Over Kadyrov Threats

Following Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov's public condemnation of Ekho Moskvy head Aleksey Venediktov, the radio station chief has announced that he considers Kadyrov's message a threat and is contacting law enforcement.

Venediktov wrote on his blog (translated by The Interpreter):

 1. I am treating Ramzan Kadyrov's threat fully seriously and therefore intend to contact Russian law enforcement bodies shortly.

2. I categorically reject Ramzan Kadyrov's accusations that Ekho Moskvy radio is anti-Islam. I believe that such statements are slanderous in nature and damaging to Ekho's business reputation.

3. We live in a secular state and abide by the constitution of the Russian Federation and Russian laws.

4. The editorial policy of Ekho Moskvy is balanced, professional and equidistant from the interests of differing groups, political parties and faiths. This is what it is, and it will remain so, regardless of various kinds of pressure and threats.

-- Pierre Vaux



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