Letter From the Editors: June 12 - 25, 2017

Now You See It, Now You Don’t: The Russian Economy and Its Amazing Invisible Growth.

If politics is the art of the possible, then political spin is the art of the impossible. Vladimir Putin’s annual call-in show set the tone for this week, focusing on domestic problems rather than geopolitics - usually the Russian president’s favored playground. The format was more austere than call-in shows past, which sought to show off Russia’s might and geopolitical successes. According to Pyotr Skorobogaty, "The call-in show did not resemble a Potemkin village. Russia came across as a country with a wide spectrum of social problems that is struggling to overcome the crisis." Putin discussed public sector wages, housing and utilities problems and even struck a conciliatory tone in terms of relations with the European Union. All in all, "Putin showed that he did not rely on the ever-optimistic TV for data on the real state of affairs in the country," Skorobogaty writes.

However, according to Yevgeny Karasyuk, Putin - and the government as a whole - as usual sees Russia’s domestic situation through rose-colored glasses. La vie en rose has been the establishment’s main political fashion essentially since the days of the "Crimean consensus" - everyone’s favorite euphemism for Russia’s annexation of the eponymous peninsula.

For instance, Karasyuk takes issue with Putin boasting about the $7 billion in foreign investment that the Russian economic received in the first quarter of 2017. He points out that in the first quarter of 2013, "foreign direct investment exceeded $37 billion."

Another statistical sleight of hand is Russia’s purportedly low unemployment rate. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced gleefully not too long ago that while the EU’s unemployment hovers around 10%, Russia’s is a mere 5.5%. A proud statistic indeed - until you factor in the overall creativity of the Federal Statistics Service (aka Rosstat) when it comes to ...

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