According to the most recent available statistics, Russia has an intentional homicide rate of 14.9 per 100,000 citizens. Only 13 countries on this planet have a higher rate.
The rate in the United States, by contrast, is 5.0 per 100,000 citizens — three times lower.
So it was strange, to say the very least, to hear Andrei Sitov, the Washington bureau chief of ITAR-TASS — the government-operated Russian version of Reuters — ask White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs whether the recent murder spree by Jared Loughner in Arizona was not an indication that while freedom generally was an “American” thing, “the quote, unquote ‘freedom’ of the deranged mind to respect, to react violently to that” was not also very “American.”
He added: “It’s the reverse side of freedom. Unless you want restrictions, unless you want a bigger role for the government.” In a separate statement Sitov clarified he meant that that “this is a cost that your country pays for freedom.”
Then, Sitov went further: “After the exchange Sitov told Politico he had heard of ordinary Russians who reacted to the shooting by saying, ‘And these people lecture us.’ He added, ‘If you want to stop this, you have to be willing to restrict some freedoms.’”
In other words, Sitov was clearly attempting to claim that Russia, where freedom is less, isn’t plagued by the ravages of intentional murder to the same extent America is. He was arguing that the Arizona murders proved the legitimacy of Russia’s anti-freedom, pro-dictatorship society and the illegitimacy of American calls for reform in Russia.
In other words, Sitov was lying.
He was spewing propaganda in the manner of Josef Goebbels, using a great American tragedy to score political points with his Kremlin puppet masters by totally disregarding the unquestionable fact that Russia’s experience with murder is far more devastating than America’s despite Russia’s total lack of freedom.
Russia, in other words, is living in the worst of all possible worlds. All the hardships of dictatorship, and none of the benefits. Good luck pointing that out to Russia’s press secretary in the Kremlin, though.
Russia has plenty of infamous serial killers. The most spectacular was Andrei Chikatilo, who murdered nearly sixty women and children before being apprehended, making Loughner look like Mother Theresa. Stories about brutal murders, including barbaric acts of cannibalism, flow out of Russia like a tsunami of blood.
And Russia has a variety of murders totally unknown in the U.S. — murders of opposition political figures and journalists not by madmen, but by but skilled assassins acting for political purposes, likely at the behest of the state. Here Russia’s recent roll of horror is seemingly endless: Starovoitova, Yushenkov, Shchekochikhin, Klebnikov, Politkovskaya, Estemirova, Markelov.
The world knows these names, even if the boss of the Russian Reuters has forgotten them. Indeed, a whole database had to be created to track the killings of journalists; Russia is of the world’s most dangerous countries for reporters.
A just-published study by international risk consultant Maplecroft of 196 countries found that a truly shocking 186 of them were less risky to do business in than Russia. You read that right: Russia is the 10th most dangerous place to do business on this planet. Maplecroft concluded:
Russia’s increased risk profile reflects both the heightened activity of militant Islamist separatists in the Northern Caucasus and their ambition to strike targets elsewhere in the country. Russia has suffered a number of devastating terrorist attacks during 2010, including the March 2010 Moscow Metro bombing, which killed 40 people. Such attacks have raised Russia’s risk profile in the Terrorism Risk Index and Conflict and Political Violence Index. The country’s poor performance is compounded by its “extreme risk” ratings for its business environment, corporate governance and the endemic nature of corruption, which is prevalent throughout all tiers of government.
Russia is rife with domestic terrorism, its entire Caucasus region on the verge of chaos.
Russia is the world’s most corrupt major economy according to Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index. In TI’s most recent survey, Russia fell to the 154th spot among 178 countries, placing it alongside Tajikistan and Kenya.
But facts like these just don’t matter in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Just as in Soviet times, Russia bigwigs feel themselves free to say anything, create any extent of alternate reality, because there is no opposition force powerful enough even to criticize them, much less to unseat them. Like the infamous emperor with his “new clothes,” Russia’s rulers will go on deluding themselves until, once again, their dishonesty and stupidity brings their nation to collapse.
Sadly, both the president of the United States and his press secretary are ignorant buffoons where Russia is concerned, and neither would be capable of pointing out any of these facts to an ape like Sitov. Gibbs’s stammering, ham-handed attempt to defend his country from Sitov’s attack was just a reflection of the fact that his boss is doing all he can to facilitate the rise of a neo-Soviet state in Russia, in the hopes of scoring cheap political points he can use during his bid for reelection.
And that, these days, is all too sadly a very American problem.