From Volume 37, Issue 32 of EIR Online, Published Aug. 20, 2010
Russia and the CIS News Digest

Climate Change Not the Cause of Drought and Fires in Russia

Aug. 11 (EIRNS)—While Greenpeace, the WWF, and other environmentalists are claiming that the wildfire disaster in Russia shows the extent of climate change, such fires have occurred repeatedly over the centuries, Russia Today documents today.

Meanwhile, despite the greenies' frenzy, the international climate change process is disintegrating—the just-ended Climate Talks in Bonn, Germany, set the climate freaks' agenda back to the situation even before the useless Copenhagen summit in December 2009. Bonn was supposed to be preparing for the Cancun climate summit later this year, and reports from India indicate that that summit might not even take place. Today, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that Cancun may not produce any binding agreements or climate change treaty. Five days of talks in Bonn only brought out more the conflicts between rich and poorer nations. China refused U.S. demands to monitor its domestic policies; African nations said that promised climate aid is totally insufficient; and the Russians refused to change policy, despite the severe Summer weather.

Russia Today chronicled the long history of hot Summers, droughts, and wildfires in Russia, starting in 1298. In 1371, fire and smoke was so bad that "black spots like nails came upon the Sun, and, for almost two months, a great pitch-black darkness covered the Earth," neither man, nor bird nor beast could see where they were going, as one chronicler wrote. A similar disaster happened 60 years later, and in July 1735, Empress Anna Ivanovna complained of the smoky air, writing: "We are surprised to see that nobody seems to hold off these fires, even though they have happened for a number of years in a row. Give an order to find out why this happens and send people to extinguish the fire as soon as possible." However, by the mid 19th Century, the army was being mobilized to combat burning forests and peat bogs, in the severe drought years of 1868 and 1875. The most recent such disaster was in 1972.

Yesterday, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proposed that the Federal Forestry Agency be put under control of the national Cabinet. The extensive and highly skilled Russian national forestry service was dismantled in the post-Soviet period, and in 2007, Putin himself had taken the final reform which eliminated government responsibility for forest fire prevention.

Putin also met with Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who stated that the orders to flood the dried-out peat bogs have not been carried out, but they would now be flooded.

Russian Demographic Report Should Be Wake-up Call

Aug. 14 (EIRNS)—The (U.S.) National Bureau of Asian Research presented a report on Aug. 12 entitled, "Russia's Peacetime Demographic Crisis: Decisions, Causes, Implications." The author of the report, Nicholas Eberstadt, is associated with the American Enterprise Institute, which will have its own reasons for utilizing some of the conclusions of the report to indicate that Russia is becoming a "failed state," but Eberstadt himself appeared genuinely concerned over his findings, which were based on a variety of sources, including Russia's own Goskomstat, the WHO, as well as the U.S. Census Bureau. The report was dedicated to veteran demographer Murray Feshbach on the occasion of his 80th birthday. Some of the more dramatic data in the report corroborate many of the findings of the earlier Feshbach research on Russia's demography.

While the decrease of the birth rate in Russia is similar to most other European countries, the fall was particularly dramatic from around 1988-89 and through the 1990s, the period of the Yeltsin-era "shock therapy," with a slight rise after 1999, with the emergence of the Putin government. More serious, was the dramatic rise in mortality with the beginning of the "shock therapy" regime. Overall, the figures began to skyrocket between 1992 and 1994, recovering somewhat until 1998, when the ruble crisis then sent the figures skyward.

In Russia, for every birth, there are three deaths, twice the rate of the rest of Europe. The primary cause of death is cardiovascular disease (CVD). The second major cause is death by "external causes," e.g., injuries, poisons, homicides, suicides. These two account for over 90% of the rate differential distinguishing Russia from Western Europe.

Violent deaths are 5-6 times higher than in Western Europe, and, higher among women than among men. WHO estimates that for 2006, life expectancy at age 15 (excluding infant mortality) in the Russian Federation is lower than for some of the least-developed countries, such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Yemen. While average life expectancy for men in the Soviet Union in 1964 was slightly under 70 years (on a par then with Austria), now the average is 60 years. If Russia had maintained the average mortality rate that France or Austria had in 1992, we can see that from 1992 to 2006, Russia had an "excess mortality" of 18 million additional deaths.

While the figures encompassed in the study don't include the last three years in which efforts have been made by the Russian government to reverse this trend, the dire picture presented indicates that without a sharp change in the present policy of bailing out the failed British financial system, Russia—and the world—is condemned to ultimate extinction. While neoconservative ideologues will argue, as one did at the presentation of the report, that an increasingly desperate, failing Russia is an ever greater risk to peace, the more rational conclusion is that only through a decisive shift in global policy toward the Nawapa-style development projects, proposed by Lyndon LaRouche, combined with nuclear energy and high-speed rail, can Russia and other nations step back from that dangerous path.

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