RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Dec. 29, 2008

blast122908.jpgTODAY: China and Russia establish high military links, Putin holds cabinet meeting on crisis, promising continuity, Stalin comes in third, predictions of a U.S. collapse, Gaddafi defends Russia, anger over Israel’s Gaza bombings, Gazprom-Ukraine deadlock continues, and a new film production of a 1968 science fiction story resonates strongly with today’s Russia.

Today top military officials from Beijing and Moscow held their first conversation over the newly established “hot line,” which is meant to signal closer “pragmatic cooperation between the two armed forces on global events.  Even though the link was established last March, it was not clear why it was just inaugurated today with such ceremony.  The Pentagon has not yet been able to negotiate a military hot line with China.

A year-end wrap up cabinet session was called in the Kremlin this morning, in which both President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for unity in face of the difficult economic crisis the country will face in 2009. 

We can have different points of view on various problems. But at a time of global challenges it is important to maintain the unity of the government. In my opinion, today we are succeeding in this,” Medvedev said.  Putin said that despite the “negative dynamic” in the fourth quarter, Russia would still grow by 6% in 2009, and the government would not change its spending plans.

Former economic advisor to the Kremlin Andrei Illarionov held a separate news conference outside of the cabinet meeting:  “Thecrisis has shown that the economic model of the last five-sixyears has failed. (…) This crisis is not linked to the globalfinancial crisis, or the fall in the oil price. It’s an institutionalcrisis.

The much-ballyhooed television viewers’ poll to elect the most important Russian individual in the country’s history wrapped up this weekend on Rossiya, with dictator Joseph Stalin coming in third place in the voting.  Although more than 50 million Russians voted for Stalin, he was beat out by Alexander Nevsky, a 13th century prince whodefeated German invaders, and Pyotr Stolypin, a prime ministerin the early 20th century.

Although he has held the prediction for more than a decade, the Russian academic Igor Panarin has been feted with popular attention in recent weeks with about two television interviews a day in Russia, as he discusses why he thinks the United States will collapse and “disintegrate” in 2010.  The Wall Street Journal reports: “Mr. Panarin’s views also fit neatly with the Kremlin’s narrative thatRussia is returning to its rightful place on the world stage after theweakness of the 1990s, when many feared that the country would goeconomically and politically bankrupt and break into separateterritories.”

“Mr. Panarin posits, in brief, that mass immigration, economic decline,and moral degradation will trigger a civil war next fall and thecollapse of the dollar. Around the end of June 2010, or early July, hesays, the U.S. will break into six pieces — with Alaska reverting toRussian control.”

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has an opinion article in today’s Boston Globe arguing that Western policies have been needlessly provoking Russia:  “As America reassesses its role in the world under a new president, itshould consider a return to the Monroe Doctrine, which called fornon-interference in problems or relations with Europe, andnon-expansion by European countries of their colonial hegemony towardAmerica. This principle of non-interference should be extended by andfor all countries of the world.

Russia has joined France, Britain, and others in demanding an immediate end to the exchange of attacks between Israel and Hamas which claimed more than 300 lives over the weekend.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called on the United States to work harder on achieving Palestinian statehood.

One of the most popular holiday films in Russia, “Uninhabited Island,” tells the story of a dystopic totalitarian regime in the year 2758, in which the main character leads a revolt against a “cryto-fascist” government led by just five “Unknown Fathers.”

Photo: Russia’s Deputy Prime MinisterIgor Sechin gestures during a cabinet meeting in Moscow December 29,2008. Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister VladimirPutin called for unity during a time of crisis on Monday, followingsigns of disagreement among officials on emergency measures. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (RUSSIA)