Recently I was reading this story from Reuters, which is actually the second part of a series from Reuters. To make a long story short, a plan was made to improve Russia’s healthcare system by rapidly building a bunch of modern hospitals throughout the country. As is typically the case with these projects, it went ridiculously over-budget($700 million) and didn’t deliver what it promised. Nothing about this is surprising to me, but stories like this catch my interest mainly because I wonder how the pro-Putin “Russia is rising while the degenerate West is crumbling” fanatics would spin this.
On the face of it, spinning a story like this would seem impossible because it’s so straightforward. A certain amount of money was earmarked to build X amount of hospitals. After a series of almost comedic blunders, $700 million was spent and the mission was not accomplished. You’d think that Team Russia would have some trouble trying to claim that non-existent hospitals actually exist. Also, given the circumstances which led the project over budget, even if you try to claim that corruption and stealing had nothing to do with the missing money, the only thing you have to fall back on is gross incompetence. In other words, if you insist that there wasn’t any stealing involved, then you’re basically saying all that money was pissed away due to idiocy.
Now they could try to spin this by claiming that Putin really had nothing to do with the inner workings of the project, or that these people responsible may have stolen the money but Putin didn’t know about it or really isn’t their best friend or whatever. Okay, fine. I’ll buy that for a moment. But I have to ask, why can’t Mr. Savior of Russia from the 90’s and Gays exercise any control over these people? I mean if he is such a great leader who is by no means authoritarian even though Russia needs an authoritarian leader, why can’t he stop this kind of theft and incompetence from going on right under his nose? This is a pretty simple project. You say to the people responsible, “I want X amount of hospitals in these places by this time and this is your budget. I want every ruble accounted for on a quarterly basis. If there’s a discrepancy you can’t explain expect to be indicted and facing 30 years in jail.” See that’s something a leader like Obama literally can’t do because of separation of powers. Putin can do this, but he never does for some reason. So how is he this great leader who is improving Russia and bringing order, again?
My guess is that there are two ways apologists would spin a story like this. One is to claim that Reuters is a Western media source and therefore nothing they report can be trusted(unless they report something negative about the US, of course). This explanation doesn’t hold water. The media company clearly attempted to interview the people being accused, giving them the opportunity to tell their side of the story. I’m not saying silence implies guilt, but giving the subjects of the investigation the opportunity to speak dispels the idea that this story was really cooked up by the CIA.
The other way is to find an example of a boondoggle project in the US or some European country and then declare that this is the equivalent. I’ve seen at least one American Team Russia fanatic claim that the Wall Street bail out was a massive example of corruption. That’s not exactly an invalid argument, though it is an example of what I and others call “legal corruption,” but it fails for the following reason. In America, if the US government wants to build say, a highway, they are going to get a fucking highway. Yes, the project could go over budget due to unforeseen circumstances and possibly some shady dealings with contractors, but in the end we’re going to have one hell of a highway. Libertarians and Republican quasi-libertarians love talking about how wasteful and incompetent the government is, but this is the same government which is easily able to construct military bases all over the world. I’m not saying that’s good, just that they get the shit done.
In Russia your standard big government project goes way over budget and provides little value. In my first years in Russia I would look at something like the lack of trash cans in many public places, for example, and think “Why don’t they just make an initiative to provide more trash cans?” It just seems so simple. What will really happen though, is that any such project, as modest as it might seem, will go over-budget, and then provide something like half of the planned number of trash cans. After a few years of reading various stories about missing money and failed government projects, you learn to suppress that reaction. You think, “Why don’t they…ah fuck it.”
In the end the Putin cheerleaders can deny and spin this in whatever delusional way they see fit, but reality doesn’t conform to their worldview and eventually the bill is going to come. This is especially important in light of the annexation of the Crimea, because now it is Russia’s responsibility. The cheerleaders may point to this recent gas deal with China as an accomplishment, but China is well aware of Russia’s troubles and this whole deal will most likely provide China with a number of pretexts for the annexation of territory in Siberia at some time in the near future. And when that happens, who will Russia turn to for help? America and Gayropa, of course, whose ambassadors will be hard-pressed to conceal their laughter as they pronounce their refusals to help Russia in its dispute with China.
I guess in the end they’ll spin it in the way they usually do, by stamping their feet, gnashing their teeth, and screaming about Russophobia, liberals, Westerners, and anti-Russian propaganda. In their bizarro-world logic, pointing out these problems constitutes an attack on Russia. Wanting these problems to be solved is “anti-Russian.” For me at least, it’s not even about Putin. If Putin decides to stop supporting populist nutjobs and actually tackle these issues, if he comes down with an iron fist not on protesters or opposition media but rather businessmen who rip off the Russian people, I’ll be one of the first to applaud him. This blog has a consistent record of giving the man all the credit he is justly owed. The issue is that I don’t see him doing that. In fact I don’t see anything even close to that happening. And to be honest I don’t see any serious alternative candidate who has a solution to these problems. That candidate doesn’t even appear on the horizon for me. The clock is ticking away. If things do not turn around, Russia is in for a nasty future, one which might be worse than the 90’s. It is largely the phony “patriots”, be they from Russia or of the imported variety who rode into the country on the Rejected & Buttmad Express, who will be to blame. They were the ones who attacked and smeared everyone who shined the spotlight on Russia’s problems, which in fact were weaknesses in its foundation. Rather than demand that those weaknesses be shored up, they simply denied or pointed out that other countries had the same weaknesses. At least we’ll have the entertainment value of watching them flee the country that they claimed was “rising” for the “degenerate crumbling” West.