The Parallax Brief

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Unrepentant Subjectivity on Economics, Politics, Defence, Foreign Policy, and Russia

Conservative Russia: Assailing Addiction

Russia is now the largest user of heroin in the world. From bbc.co.uk:

“The head of Russia’s anti-narcotics service, Victor Ivanov, said that seizures of Afghan heroin were up 70%.

Mr Ivanov, a former KGB officer and senior Kremlin official, said the flood of the drug from Afghanistan posed a threat to Russia’s national security. […] He said the drug was partly to blame for rising crime and a fall in Russia’s population. “In recent years Russia has not just become massively hooked on Afghan opiates, it has also become the world’s absolute leader in the opiate trade and the number one heroin consumer,” he said in a report made available to reporters.

“Drug trafficking has become a key negative factor for demography and a blow to our nation’s gene pool… [and] a challenge to Russia’s civilisation.”

The Russian health ministry says Russia has up to 2.5 million drug addicts out of a population of some 140 million, most of them aged between 18 and 39.”

This stunning statistic slams home a malignant double whammy for Russia. Not only does heroin addiction reap its usual icy devastation on individual and community, it also helps oil the motor of demographic decline by doing so to the most fertile age group.
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Conservative Russia

People simply do not realise that Russia is a deeply conservative country.

Fiscal policy is buttressed on a low, flat rate of income tax (13%), and there is virtually no social safety net, with spending on unemployment security, medical provision, disability aid, infrastructure, the environment, and urban regeneration far lower, in both absolute terms and as a percentage of GDP, than its G8 contemporaries.

Similarly, military spending is high in comparison — and growing — medical care is available free in theory, but requires private insurance or additional cash payment in practice, and businesses are in reality pretty un-regulated.

If that doesn’t sound to you like a set of policies Newt Gingrich or William F Buckley would support, then you don’t know your dyed in the wool conservatives from your woolly jumper wearing liberals.

The Parallax Brief believes, however, that these government policies are generally matched by the views of Ivan Six-Pack. Now, the Parallax Brief had been led to believe by his pinko sociology teachers in college that communism taught progressive views on gender, race, immigration and class, so it therefore came as a shock to find when he moved here that after 80 years of Marxist indoctrination, young ladies in Russia often reject feminism, men ooze with unrepentant machismo, and the population appears to generally support a penal code that could have been based on Dostoyevsky’s work.

The Parallax Brief passes no judgment on Russia’s conservatism (beyond finding it ironic that those who criticise Russia the most would like similar policies implemented in their countries (I’m thinking of you Charles Krauthammer, Ed Lucas, Anne Applebaum and the Republican Party)), but does view it as the foundation from which Russia can be better understood, and its news and policies better analysed.

With this in mind, over the coming weeks, the Parallax Brief will highlight news which he believes can be viewed best through the prism of ‘conservative Russia’, and hopes that in doing so he can provide a fresh and oft ignored perspective on Russian life – as well as, of course, stimulating debate.

First up, on Wednesday 11 March, will be Russia’s recent admission that it is the world’s leading heroin user.

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Moscow on Ice

Moscow’s refusal to use salt or chemicals on the pavements in winter to aid deicing and snow melting is crazy. These proven and safe methods would make a huge difference to the walking conditions in Moscow, which have at times this winter become so impassable that good old treacherous becomes a halcyon memory.

Yet despite knowing that each year the streets will be covered in snow and ice for a large portion of the six-month Russian winter, and that only a very small number of days will be too cold for salt and chemicals to work, the city still refuses to bow to common sense. Why? Well, of course, because salt damages shoes.

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