Letters to the Editor: Vladimir Putin and Russia's Economy

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In response to "Putin is no Siberian Rambo; he’s helpless"

As long-time subscribers to the Haaretz newspaper, we in the Russian Embassy in Israel believe that your readers have a right to know facts about modern Russia, its foreign and domestic policy to make their own conclusions about allegations made by Mr. Horowitz.

He argues that “millions of Russians are falling into terrible poverty.” The economy is in “a severe recession” and, “nothing good is evident on the horizon.”

The truth is completely different. According to the World Bank, Russia’s economy remains the sixth largest in the world and Russia’s GDP in 2014 showed a positive growth at 0.6%, reaching 3.745 trillion USD by PPP and 12,735 USD per capita. For comparison: in 2000 when Vladimir Putin became President, the figures were 1.530 trillion USD and 1,771 USD, respectively. 

Foreign currency reserves of Russia in June, 2015,  rose to 361.57 billion USD (the 8th in the world). Public debt remains at an extremely low level, especially comparing to the US and EU nations (9.7% of GDP in 2014). Since early 2014 China’s leading rating agency “Dagon” repeatedly determined Russia’s sovereign rating as “A” with a stable forecast. Russia is the fastest growing consumer market in Europe. This truth is widely understood by serious traders and investors worldwide, including in Israel.  

A country whose situation is “the economic fiasco” could not have possibly staged a highly successful Winter Olympics in 2014, among a whole series of international politics and sports events in recent years. Right now, the 16th FINA (aquatic sports) World Championship is being held in the city of Kazan. There is no doubt that the world will see an exemplary FIFA World Cup tournament in Russia in 2018. 

No one argues that the decline of oil prices and Western sanctions are a challenge, but it is an opportunity, too. The Russian government is undertaking a major overhaul of the economy to ensure that its competitiveness and efficiency get even stronger, when the dust settles. To be sure, economists polled by Reuters expect 0.5% growth in Russia next year after a 3.5% contraction this year. 

Mr. Horowitz seems to allege that Russia’s policy is bent on bulling abroad. Nothing is more distant from the truth. Russia has no expansionist ambitions, is a strong supporter of international cooperation and has deep respect of international law. Those who try to put blame on Russia for just about everything fail to notice the beam in their own eye. In such complex situations, as Ukraine, Syria or the Iranian nuclear program, Russia is guided by the principles of peaceful resolution of conflicts through an inclusive dialogue of all parties involved. 

Other than responding to challenges to its national security interests, Russia peruses a constructive cooperative agenda focused on development. That’s where you can fit Moscow’s sustained efforts to build the Eurasian Economic Union (pooled over 180 million consumers since January, 2015)  based on common interests of all member states, invigorate BRICS and the SCO groupings, and develop mutually beneficial ties with Israel and all others who are ready for a friendly and equal relationship with Russia.  

Mr. Horowitz seems to be obsessed about “political repression” in Russia. Anyone who ventures to portray Russia as a state that purports “to jail musicians and film directors, to persecute journalists and harass LGBT activists” needs to understand that Russia is a sovereign nation, a vibrant constitutional democracy with a sovereign legislature and independent judicial system. With its more than 1000-year tradition of statehood, the multiethnic people of Russia has a natural right to build its future based on its traditional values and without any outside interference. Needless to say, Russian laws forbid harassment of anyone but it is also prohibited by law to engage in propagating homosexual relations values and pedophilia to minors. Suffice it to say that such a policy is supported by an overwhelming majority of Russian citizens. All recent polls show that  approval ratings of President Putin are at a historic high of 80 and more percentage points. 

And finally, living here in Israel I know from my personal conversations that many Israelis would not share a bleak analysis of Russia presented by Mr. Horowitz. Yes, Russia is a huge country, and not without problems. But the fact is, the more people travel to modern Russia, the more they learn about the complexities of true Russia, the more reserved in their judgments they become.    

Evgeny Piskunov 

Head of the Press Section

Russian Embassy in Israel

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