• Pivot to Russia? Mr. Putin is an awesome thug and failed leader

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    Marlen V. Ronquillo

    Marlen V. Ronquillo

    THERE is a certified Russian genius and we know his name–Gary Kasparov. Sadly, the whiz who ruled the chess world during his prime with hardly any competition has forsaken chess in favor of politics–or political protest to be more specific. He has spent his post-chess life fighting the abuses of Vladimir Putin, the ex-KGB who has ruled Russia for decades.

    IQand the power of analysis can only do so much in the area of political protest but Gary Kasparov is a man on a great mission. He wants to expose the true nature of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which is nothing but a failed petrostate. And with the leader, Putin, living off the intimidation of his political opponents, the purge of institutions critical of his leadership and the jailing (or murder) of big businessmen who oppose his brand of oligarchy. And stirring up a toxic brew of nativism and xenophobia to cover up his many failings.

    Putin had the chance to elevate Russia to the status of a great economic power. Putin had the chance to engage the West on the issue of who has the best governing ideas. Who can exercise global leadership better. Who can do global trade better. Who can demonstrate national pride better. But instead of engaging the world with the brilliance and practicality of great ideas, he just opted to retreat to his darker past as an ex-KGB agent during the time of the USSR.

    How does the Putin regime deal with critical journalists? I will give you a name–Anna Politkovskaya. First, she was poisoned but survived. Two years later,gunmen shot and killed her near her apartment.

    Putin’s incompetence is demonstrated by the GDP charts that starts in 1999, the year he took power, to the GDP chart last year. From 1999 to 2008, growth was between 5 percent to 8.5 percent and it was fueled by a three-letter word–oil, or oil prices that climbed to more than $100 per barrel. From 2009 to 2015, the growth rates have been average, poor and mediocre. As oil prices dropped, Putin was revealed to have squandered all the gains from the previous peak prices and has utterly failed to diversify the Russian economy.

    Given Russia‘s giant land mass, skilled manpower and geographic diversity, a leader with the barest minimum of economic competence could have used the huge oil gains to invest in the future, diversify the economy and make it less dependent on volatile oil prices .

    President DU30, who has promised to bring back the glory days of the country’s manufacturing sector, should be aware of this elementary fact. Mr. Putin’s Russia, despite its many attributes, has a very weak manufacturing sector.

    Everything that Mr. Putin touches seems to get the economic curse. Remember the annexation of Crimea more than two years ago? Mr. Putin said it would be a win-win thing for both Crimea and the Russian mainland. What happened? Three things did happen: tourists have fled this famous Black Sea destination, wages have stagnated, along with pensions, and prices of most goods have soared.

    From a bustling tourist haven, Putin has turned Crimea into a dreaded destination.

    Who gains from Putin’s reign of terror?

    The flow of immigrants from Russia is one of the reasons that has been driving the technology boom in Israel. It was the technical talent from Russia, the immigrants to Israel,that mainly staffed the technology companies, from the start-ups to those comparable in size and in market capitalization to some of Silicon Valley’s second-tier technology companies.

    Today, Israel ranks second in the world in the amount of funds raised by technology start-ups. It ranks third in skilled labor availability. It is ranked fourth in the quality of scientific research institutions. It is ranked first in R&D expenditures as a percentage of GDP.

    This is a country with just 7 million people.

    What kind of technology “ talent” does Russia have now? Maybe the kind of talent that would not hesitate to hack into the Democratic National Committee sites to damn Hillary Clinton and give an edge to Putin’s “ bro, ” Donald Trump.

    There is nothing wrong with dealing with Russia. There is nothing wrong with buying Russian-made weapons and armaments. Our foreign dealings should be anchored on what partner would give us the best deal, the most competitive prices.

    All countries in the world should place national interest first and foremost in crafting trade deals.

    But as we buy from Russia, let us skip the part of praising Putin or romanticizing his “strong leadership.” There is nothing strong about Putin except his supreme competence in jailing, harassing and banishing those opposed to his regime.

    Civic virtues? Democratic traditions? Inspiring ideas that can be shared with the world?

    Putin and his macho posturing should never be a part of, should never influence our democratic and civil discourse.

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