TODAY: Putin warns against state intervention and reliance on the dollar during his Davos speech; Castro in Russia for trade-boosting visit; staged rallies of Kremlin support fall flat; still no unambiguous response from Russia on missile defense retaliation plans.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s opening speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos focused on the dangers of excessive state intervention in the economy, saying that Soviet measures ‘finally led to our economy being totally noncompetitive. We paid dearly for that lesson. I am confident that no one would want to retry that.’ One journalist responds, ‘It beggars belief to hear a Russian leader warn the west not to turn into the Soviet Union’. Some were surprised that Putin did not blame the US outright for the global financial crisis, but he did insist on a rebalancing of global power as a way out of it, spoke about the death of investment banks in contrast to the US’ ‘cloudless prospects’ of last year, and pointed out that ‘the existing financial system has failed‘. He also suggested that the world should move towards a system of multiple reserve currencies, questioning the reliability of using just the US dollar. The Times sees Putin as having ‘eaten his words’. China and Russia reportedly held a private meeting on the sidelines of the Forum last night to discuss measures for countering the effects the crisis.
Putin also said he was against increasing military expenditure, as it would hinder the resolution of social and economic problems. Cuban President Raul Castro is in Russia for an eight-day visit intended to boost trade ties. A series of ‘choreographed’ rallies of support for Vladimir Putin’s economic policies were ‘half-hearted’ and on the contrary, many see ‘serious unrest’, not support, as the eventual outcome of new policies.
Further reports suggest that Russia intends to suspend its retaliatory measure against the US of deploying missiles in Kaliningrad, and the story has been taken up by a number of sources eager to see the question of missile defense – ‘one of the most unilateral and reckless military ideas of the Bush presidency’ – put to bed. And quite apart from the damage to foreign relations, what of the effects of missiles on tourism? Russia’s offer is still unconfirmed, and some sources suggest that Russia is denying the reports.
The Moscow Times has started a rather depressing Crime Watch Blog.
PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin listens to speeches during a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday Jan. 28, 2009. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)