View Full Version : Open letter to the Russian government

01-23-09, 03:46 PM
Russia is a great nation with a history of adaptation to difficult circumstances.

The present is no exception, but the end of the worldwide credit bubble does not have to result in an end to Russian prosperity.

While Russia has - and will continue to have - a pivotal role in supplying oil, natural gas, and other commodities to the world, it is now time for the next step: to unleash the full capability of the Russian people and the entirety of Russia's vast interior.

How to do this? By looking to the new technologies in transportation and communications that will provide the spur for the next era in development.

A brief background:

The past 500 years has been one where shipping has been the backbone of world trade. Shipping costs are fractions of any other: 0.007 cents per ton-mile vs. 0.025 cents for railroad, 0.251 cents for trucks on roads, and 0.588 cents for air.

Railroads were the next major transport revolution - providing a previously unheard of cost reduction in land transport.

Automobiles and airplanes were the next major revolution - providing respectively convenience and speed albeit at a relatively high price.

Due to the cost structures, sea transport is still the most vital - and thus control of the shipping lanes is vital for all nations engaged in international trade and thus in international relations.

With the advent of new technology, however, there is now an opportunity to usher in the next stage. This opportunity exists because Russia is a nation which extends nearly the full latitude of the Eurasian continent whereupon the bulk of the world's population resides.

Although there are rail networks such as the Trans-Siberian rail line, the distances involved, transit times, and costs are such that tremendous overhead burdens are imposed on transport and communications from the full reach of the Russian nation to its ports in the West (St. Petersburg), South (Sevastopol), and East (Vladivostok) as well as to the national and mercantile capitals.

The technology which can transform this is maglev. While maglev is being used in Europe to provide luxury high speed transport for relatively short distances, it is for long distance overland travel in which Maglev can truly shine.

Maglev operating costs per ton mile are far less than automobile and only somewhat more than rail: perhaps 7 cents per ton mile in a developed country. For Russia which has tremendous energy resources - especially in the interior, this cost can be expected to be lower.

But Maglev has the benefit of being 10 times faster than rail or automobile and on par with air transport.

Secondly a project to install major maglev trunk lines along existing major rail lines would be able to trivially install both power and fiber optic communications lines.

Certainly the costs are high: an estimated $25,000 per kilometer in developed nations.

Laying fiber optic cables normally costs no more than $7,300 per rural kilometer - again for developed nations.

Actual cost for Russia would likely be lower - perhaps two thirds, and perhaps much less due to confluence of effort.

Using the 9,200 kilometer Trans-Siberian railroad as an example and the two thirds maglev plus fiber optic installation figure, the resulting amount is less than two hundred billion dollars.

A lot of money, true, but perhaps a small price to pay to unlock the full potential of Russia.

Being able to travel (and transport freight) from one end of Russia to the other in 7 hours, as well as providing broadband internet access across all of Russia ...

This would be a revolution without bullets.

01-23-09, 03:52 PM
This letter was spurred by Mauldin's latest missive - a look into the future 100 years from now by George Friedman.

One of the major assumptions made was that sea transport would still be the key - and that the United States is ideally positioned due to its location between the Atlantic and Pacific.

But this is true only if sea transport is indeed still the best way.

What if it were not?

While the sheer cost of maglev transport is never going to be below sea transport - on the other hand speed has its place as well.

Using the relative gains in cost and speed makes maglev much more competitive for overland transport.

And while the United States is between the oceans, it is also notably separated by the oceans from the bulk of the world's population.

This population in time will serve as both producers and consumers.

Can you envision a new 'just in time' business model based on high speed overland transport rather than cheap ship based transport?

How much is it worth to slice weeks and months out of the supply and distribution chains?

The added benefit of providing cheap fast transport and modern communications to the deep interior - that can only benefit.

Can other nations also benefit from such networks? Certainly.

But no other nation straddles the Eurasian continent. South of Russia is highly mountainous and split into literally a dozen sovereignties. An alternative to Horn of Africa/Suez Canal traverses? No reliance on the Straits of Malacca? Food for thought.

01-23-09, 05:45 PM
I hear a lot about Maglev, we here in Germany have only a test track, despite building it for other nations like China.

I wonder how much energy it costs, how much power do you need?
Lets say you want to build it like the Trans-Siberian Railway, do you need power generators or transformators every couple of miles ?

Have you seen the docu on the Shanghai Maglev ? If I remember correctly they work with 1 or 2 mm allowance and they had to build it in a delta or swamp land, it was not an easy task.

It will be interesting to observe how the Obama administration with advisers like Brzezinski will handle Russia.

01-23-09, 09:04 PM
It will be interesting to observe how the Obama administration with advisers like Brzezinski will handle Russia.

It is not interesting at all, and the answer is clear. The same way Carter/Brzezinski handled it. In the case of GWs failures it was, mostly, blind ignorance, in the case of Obama it will be blind pipe dreams (like the one in the c1ueless letter to the Russian gov't above). Russia is not going to change no matter what. I'm just afraid, Russia and US will have more things in common, because US is getting more like Russia by the day.

01-23-09, 09:54 PM

So what is your proposal? Just emigrate? Or is that already done?

01-24-09, 12:24 AM
Medved, So what is your proposal? Just emigrate? Or is that already done?

Proposal for whom? For Russians or for Americans? I would assume the first, because you don't need my proposals for Americans being American himself.

Emigration is a part of the answer and many people left Russia/USSR over the last 20 years. But this is not the answer for everybody in Russia. Some of them just don't imagine themselves outside of Russia and don't want to leave, and others are incapable to adjust to life abroad. They will stay. I have no proposals for them.

I left the USSR precisely because I did not want to participate in solving *their* problems. I am a US citizen and don't care about Russian problems (except my close friends there). OTOH, some people, I know, live outside of Russia proper (Ukraine, Baltics etc.). They are not thrilled about the coming big mess in Russia. They are plain and simple scared.

I am more worried about the problems Russia creates for the US. I don't see anybody here, who can handle them with any understanding. One of the exceptions is George Friedman (Stratfor). So, if you subscribe to his stuff ($$$), you may find some reasonable info.

If there are people in Russia you care about, just help them to keep out of trouble by temporarily staying here in the US. When things stabilize (for better or for worse), they will decide by themselves what to do.

As they say in Russia, "перемелется - мука будет".

01-24-09, 04:22 AM
It is not interesting at all, and the answer is clear. The same way Carter/Brzezinski handled it. In the case of GWs failures it was, mostly, blind ignorance, in the case of Obama it will be blind pipe dreams (like the one in the c1ueless letter to the Russian gov't above). Russia is not going to change no matter what. I'm just afraid, Russia and US will have more things in common, because US is getting more like Russia by the day.

I was always interested in the Roman Empire, intrigues etc., it's like living history.

It's a lot of work, but it's interesting to observe how a (polycentric) oligarchy works.

I think it started in 2006/2007 when Gates was brought in, and is now staying in the Obama admin.

Robert Gates (http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1733748_1733757_1735600,00.html)
By Zbigniew Brzezinski

Robert Gates was President George W. Bush's surprising choice as Secretary of Defense. When he accepted that onerous appointment — in the midst of a painful war and two years before the end of the President's term in office — he simply stated that he felt it was his duty to serve.

Having known him for some 30 years, I know this statement was sincere. Gates, above all, is a patriot. But he happens to be also a very intelligent patriot, and that is truly reassuring. During his confirmation hearings before the Senate, Gates, 64, acknowledged the important role of Congress in any decision to initiate a new war. That earned him widespread bipartisan respect — and a wartime Secretary of Defense needs such support, particularly when the war is so unpopular.

Gates' professional career has focused predominantly on national security issues. He served on the National Security Council (NSC) staff under Brent Scowcroft during the Ford presidency. He then became my special assistant when I was in charge of the NSC under President Jimmy Carter. He was the first person I would see every morning and usually the last one in the evening. I came to value highly his grasp of foreign affairs and his political judgment.

His meteoric rise continued at the CIA, where he eventually became director under President George H.W. Bush. Cool, calm and collected, this is a man who would never be rattled by a sudden 3 a.m. phone call.


Gates Predicts U.S. Will be in Iraq and Afghanistan ‘for Years to Come’ (http://www.cnsnews.com/public/content/article.aspx?RsrcID=42417)
Friday, January 23, 2009
By Pete Winn, Senior Writer/Editor

(CNSNews.com) – Defense Secretary Robert Gates predicts the U.S. will be in Afghanistan for years to come.

In an article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, Gates laid out the state of the U.S. military -- and how well it is poised to face the future.

Gates, who came to his post under Bush and was asked to stay by Obama, said the ability of the United States to deal with future threats will depend on how it performs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“To be blunt, to fail -- or to be seen to fail -- in either Iraq or Afghanistan would be a disastrous blow to U.S. credibility, both among friends and allies and among potential adversaries,” Gates wrote.

Gates said the number of U.S. combat units in Iraq will decline over time – “as it was going to do no matter who was elected president in November,” he added.

Denouncing a war against Iran as a stupid move in Feb 2007

SFRC Testimony -- Zbigniew Brzezinski
February 1, 2007


If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody
involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to
be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large.
A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure
to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility
for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S.
blamed on Iran; culminating in a “defensive” U.S. military action against
Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire
eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

http://www.senate.gov/~foreign/testimony/2007/BrzezinskiTestimony070201.pdf senate&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1

It's clear that the Georgia operation mirrors the Afghanistan experiment by Brzezinski. But what comes next ? I know that long term objectives are encircling and destabilizing the border regions. Putin claims the objective is to split the country in to 4 parts. Brzezinski denies this, but it's not like he hasn't been caught lying before.

November 1978-February 1979: Some US Officials Want to Support Radical Muslims to Contain Soviet Union

In December 1978, President Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski says, “An arc of crisis stretches along the shores of the Indian Ocean, with fragile social and political structures in a region of vital importance to us threatened with fragmentation. The resulting political chaos could well be filled by elements hostile to our values and sympathetic to our adversaries.” [Time, 1/8/1979] There is widespread discontent and rioting in Iran at the time. State Department official Henry Precht will later recall that Brzezinski had the idea “that Islamic forces could be used against the Soviet Union. The theory was, there was an arc of crisis, and so an arc of Islam could be mobilized to contain the Soviets.”


Vladimir Putin, President of Russia: “You talk about public opinion. Public opinion in Russia is in favor of increasing our security. Where did you get a public opinion that we should fully disarm and then, according to some theoreticians, such as Brzezinski, divide our territory into three or four states? If there is such a public opinion, I would disagree with it.” (June 4, 2007, in an interview with foreign journalists).

FOREIGN POLICY (http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/foreign_policy/)

Secure Loose Nuclear Materials from Terrorists: Obama and Biden will secure all loose nuclear materials in the world within four years. While working to secure existing stockpiles of nuclear material, Obama and Biden will negotiate a verifiable global ban on the production of new nuclear weapons material. This will deny terrorists the ability to steal or buy loose nuclear materials.


Move Toward a Nuclear Free World: Obama and Biden will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and pursue it. Obama and Biden will always maintain a strong deterrent as long as nuclear weapons exist. But they will take several steps down the long road toward eliminating nuclear weapons.
They will stop the development of new nuclear weapons; work with Russia to take U.S. and Russian ballistic missiles off hair trigger alert; seek dramatic reductions in U.S. and Russian stockpiles of nuclear weapons and material; and set a goal to expand the U.S.-Russian ban on intermediate-range missiles so that the agreement is global.

If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization, economic investments, and a move toward normal diplomatic relations


Moscow denies Pentagon claims of 'stolen' Russian nuclear weapons (http://en.rian.ru/russia/20081031/118059563.html[)
14:37 | 31/ 10/ 2008

MOSCOW, October 31 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Foreign Ministry denied on Friday claims by the U.S. defense secretary that large amounts of Russian nuclear weapons had been stolen or misplaced.

Speaking in Washington on Tuesday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Robert Gates expressed concern that some Russian nuclear weapons from the former Soviet arsenal may not be fully accounted for.

"I have fairly high confidence that no strategic or modern tactical nuclear weapons have leaked beyond Russian borders," Gates said.

"What worries me are the tens of thousands of old nuclear mines, nuclear artillery shells and so on, because the reality is the Russians themselves probably don't have any idea how many of those they have or, potentially, where they are," he added.


Obama and the case of the missing 'thesis' (http://deepbackground.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/07/24/1219454.aspx)
Posted on Thursday, July 24, 2008 12:01 PM ET
Filed Under: Politics

By Jim Popkin, NBC News Senior Investigative Producer
Conservative provocateurs have been hunting for it. Investigative journalists have been on the prowl, too. Even a former professor has been searching through old boxes for his copy of it. But today Barack Obama made it official: He doesn’t have and can’t release any copies of the thesis-length paper he wrote 25 years ago while a senior at Columbia University.

“We do not have a copy of the course paper you requested and neither does Columbia University,” Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt told NBC News.

The hunt begins
The hunt for Obama’s senior “thesis” began with a throwaway line in a newspaper article last October. The New York Times story, on Obama’s early New York years, mentioned in passing that the presidential contender had majored in political science at Columbia and had spent his time “writing his thesis on Soviet nuclear disarmament.”


01-24-09, 09:26 AM

If you read www.dunwalke.com (http://www.dunwalke.com) and believe even a shred of it, the US has been an oligarchy for decades already.

The difference is in the US, it is not obvious - the oligarchs don't flaunt their status. In Russia, on the other hand, the economic oligarchs were all nouveau riche so naturally threw it in everyone's faces.

Putin, on the other hand, probably controls tons of money but doesn't seem to spend much of it - outside of his expensive suits.

But returning to your Rome theme: the reason I put out this open letter is that I really do see a potential for a significant world changing investment.

A cross-Eurasia Russian maglev meeting up with similar lines to China, India, Germany, and the Middle East could form the basis for both a much stronger and stable Russian economy as well as strengthening economic and cultural ties across that space.

This is a potentially game changing device. Faster than auto, near air travel speeds, but at only somewhat over railroad costs.

Couple that with Russia's energy and commodity resources in its interior - which presently must be pipelined or transported by rail over thousands of kilometers - this investment would serve both to better utilize these resources (think a Great Artery of maglev, fiber optics, and even pipelines) as well as build up infrastructure all along the length of the track.

This Great Artery would then provide a base for a renewed economy: a foundation of building then servicing the artery, followed by additional jobs that can take advantage of the transport, power, and communications infrastructure created.

Rather than a series of fairly isolated 'industrial cities' sited to reap minerals out of Siberia, the Great Artery could more closely link the far reaches of Russia.

The analogy I would draw is that of the islands in the Pacific. Each of these islands is simply too small to afford to take advantage of the VLCC/giant container ship shipping paradigm - they have neither the resources nor the population to be able to take advantage of the large scale transport. Tramp steamers, while cheap, are too slow.

The industrial cities - while somewhat larger - suffer from very similar issues.

It is difficult to economically connect these scattered areas in a much more competitive world.

Think of why Rome built its roads - this is why Russia needs this type of upgraded transportation and communication network.

America due to its relative wealth can afford to connect via air - or at least can right now.

But Russia will need to take a different path.