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5 top ways life in Russia is better than the US

From cheap internet to public transport, Russia’s got the advantage in some key areas

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(RBTH) – Over the last couple of years, Russia has definitely been attracting Westerners’ attention and not only in terms of hacking rumors and every other scandal under the Sun. The way ordinary Russians live and cope with their problems is also interesting, especially in comparison to the West, the U.S. in particular.

On Jan. 15, 2017 a user going by the alias ajl1239 posted a question on Reddit: “As a so-called ‘Westerner,’ I’d like to know what are some things that you absolutely think Russia does better than the West (i.e. U.S./EU)?” Six months ago almost the same question appeared on Quora.com:  “In what ways is Russia better than the United States?”

We’ve studied the most popular answers, compared them with what we see in Russia, provided information from some other sources – and made a list of what Russia excels at. Here we go.

Subway system

Novoslobodskaya metro station (Moscow). With all due respect, have you seen such beauty in New York?

Novoslobodskaya metro station (Moscow). With all due respect, have you seen such beauty in New York? Legion Media

“Nearly every metro station in Russia is beautiful, not comparable to underground stations in the West,” Mistogun7 wrote in answer to the question on Reddit. This may be a slight exaggeration: After all, not every city in Russia enjoys its own subway system, let alone as developed and beautiful as the one in Moscow.

Nevertheless, generally when people compare Russian metros even to the biggest and most developed in the U.S. (New York) they seem to criticize the latter.  “I rode Moscow’s metro for a day, and it blew New York’s subway away,” Dylan Love wroteon the Insider website, deeply impressed by the speed of the trains, cost of travel, and all-around beauty (marble floors, stations looking like palaces, etc.).

Cheap Internet

Internet in Russia is more expensive than in Europe but cheaper than in the U.S.

Internet in Russia is more expensive than in Europe but cheaper than in the U.S. Vladimir Astapkovich/Sputnik

As Peter Ponin, a Russian expat who has lived in Seattle for several years, mentioned on Quora, “In Russia it’s not uncommon to have 3-4 providers to choose,” which makes Internet far more affordable. Seems about true – in Russia you can get a 100 megabits per second (Mbps) connection for 449 rubles ($7.9) while in America the price for the same speed is around $89.

At the same time, Alexander Novikov, a Lithuanian, commented on the question that Europe beats both Russia and the U.S. in terms of cheapness/speed correlation. “Down here in Lithuania, symmetric 500/500 Mbit fiber is 20 euro a month”, he said. But when Russia is only compared to the U.S., Russia wins.

Sincerity  

Wanna hear the unpleasant truth about yourself and the world around? Come to Russia and talk to almost anyone.

Wanna hear the unpleasant truth about yourself and the world around? Come to Russia and talk to almost anyone. Evgenya Novozhenina/Sputnik

This one doesn’t concern infrastructure or technology but communication. Reddit user ineedmoresleep described it briefly and comprehensively: “No bullshit,” and many others supported him. According to them, Russians nowadays are far more sincere than Westerners, who are constantly “afraid to offend anyone” and “don’t say what needs to be said.” Apparently, Russians have no problem speaking their mind.

Sometimes they even found it disquieting. While Americans complain about being too politically correct, some Russians wish their countrymen were nicer. For instance, Andrey Gunin, a Russian who visited the U.S., wrote: “I know that many of those who’ve been to the U.S. say that there affability is non-sincere (and I don’t argue). But when it comes to me, I would choose even non-sincere friendliness over sincere boorishness that we, unfortunately, often face in our country.”

Free healthcare

A patient gets a vaccination at Moscow public outpatient clinic. The medical care in Russia is far from ideal but it remains free by now.

tient gets a vaccination at Moscow public outpatient clinic. The medical care in Russia is far from ideal but it remains free by now. Sergei Bobylev/TASS

It’s debatable which country provides better medical care but in Russia it’s surely cheaper. Though more private clinics exist nowadays, the Soviet heritage remains: If you have an insurance policy you get treated for free.

This seems to impress Americans, with Greg Easter (an expat living in Russia) writing: “You get free medical and dental care. If you have a small child who is sick, a doctor will make a house call the same day at no charge to you.”

Healthcare in Russia is not all rainbows and ponies though. It may be free but it’s not very available. The number of hospitals in Russia reduced by half from 2000 to 2015 – the government is closing small hospitals in the regions in a bid to improve efficiency. According to research conducted by the Accounts Chamber in 2015, the availability of services is decreasing. So if you’re living in a small town or village in Russia’s province, getting treated can be a problem.

Free education

Students of the philosophy department of Mikhail Lomonosov Moscow State University. Not all of them are studying for free but some sure do.

Students of the philosophy department of Mikhail Lomonosov Moscow State University. Not all of them are studying for free but some sure do. Vladimir Vyatkin/Sputnik

As it is with healthcare, this is inherited from the Soviet past. The constitution guarantees everyone free education up to secondary level. School graduates are then able to get free higher education as well… if they succeed in their exams. Many universities have state-provided seats but only graduates with the best results get them.

Nevertheless, in the U.S. it’s even harder to get higher education for free so many people mention free education as a plus in Russia. “It is a huge social lift and a real opportunities equalizer,” one user commented on Quora, adding at the same time a couple of drawbacks: “Too many educated people, devaluating higher education, low paid professors.”

At the same time, in terms of comparing the top universities, the U.S. wins. International rankings value American universities higher: In QS World University Rankings 2018  the top four universities are American, with the best in Russia – the Moscow State University – only taking 95th place. American higher education is surely better – but less available. After all, everything in life has its pros and cons.

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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EU’s ‘toothless’ response to creation of Kosovo army risks worsening the crisis – Moscow

Russia’s ambassador to the UN said that the EU could have and should have done more to stop the breakaway region from creating its own army.

RT

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The creation of Kosovo’s own 5,000-strong army is a threat to peace and security in a turbulent region and may lead to a new escalation, Russia’s UN envoy has warned, calling the EU’s lackluster response irresponsible.

Speaking at the UN Security Council emergency meeting on Kosovo, Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzya said that the EU could have and should have done more to stop the breakaway region from creating its own army to replace its lightly armed emergency response force.

“The EU reaction to the decision by Pristina cannot be described as other than toothless. This irresponsible policy has crossed the line,” Nebenzya said, after the UNSC meeting on Monday.

The diplomat said the lack of decisive action on the part of the 28-member bloc was a “great disappointment,” adding that the EU seems to “have turned a blind eye on the illegal creation of Kosovo’s ‘army.’”

The law, approved by Kosovo lawmakers on Friday, paves the way for doubling the size of the current Kosovo Security Force and for turning it into a de facto army, with 5,000 soldiers and 3,000 reservists.

The move did not go down well even with Kosovo’s usual backers, with both NATO and the EU voicing their indignation. NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg called the decision “ill-timed” and lamented that Kosovo’s authorities had ignored “the concerns expressed by NATO.”

The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, has echoed those concerns, saying in a statement that the mandate of Kosovo’s forces “should only be changed through an inclusive and gradual process” in accordance with the state’s constitution.

The only nation to openly applaud the controversial move was the US, with its ambassador to Kosovo, Phillip Kosnett, saying that Washington “reaffirms its support” for the upgrade as it is “only natural for Kosovo as a sovereign, independent country” to have a full-fledged army.

The Kosovo MPs’ decision has drawn anger in the Serbian capital Belgrade and provoked a strong response from Moscow, which calledon the UN mission in Kosovo to demilitarize the area in accordance with UNSC resolution 1244, and to disband any armed units.

Nebenzya pointed out that the UN resolution does not allow any Kosovo Albanian military units to be present in the region’s territory. He accused Western countries, including members of the NATO-led international peacekeeping force (KFOR), of “condoning and supporting” the violation by Pristina of the resolution.

It is feared that the army, though a relatively small force, might inflame tensions in the region and impede attempts at reconciliation between Pristina and Belgrade. Serbia has warned that it might consider an armed intervention if the army becomes a threat to the 120,000-strong Serb minority in Kosovo.

“The advance of Kosovo’s army presents a threat to the peace and security in the region, which may lead to the recurrence of the armed conflict,” Nebenzya stated.

In addition to creating its own army, Kosovo in November hit Serbia with a 100 percent import tariff on goods, defying calls by the US and the EU to roll the measure back.

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Ukraine’s President Says “High” Threat Of Russian Invasion, Urges NATO Entry In Next 5 Years

Poroshenko is trying desperately to hold on to power, even if it means provoking Russia.

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Via Zerohedge


Perhaps still seeking to justify imposing martial law over broad swathes of his country, and attempting to keep international pressure and media focus on a narrative of “Russian aggression,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denounced what he called the high “threat of Russian invasion” during a press conference on Sunday, according to Bloomberg.

Though what some analysts expected would be a rapid flair up of tit-for-tat incidents following the late November Kerch Strait seizure of three Ukrainian vessels and their crew by the Russian Navy has gone somewhat quiet, with no further major incident to follow, Poroshenko has continued to signal to the West that Russia could invade at any moment.

“The lion’s share of Russian troops remain” along the Russian border with Ukraine, Poroshenko told journalists at a press conference in the capital, Kiev. “Unfortunately, less than 10 percent were withdrawn,” he said, and added: “As of now, the threat of Russian troops invading remains. We have to be ready for this, we won’t allow a repeat of 2014.”

Poroshenko, who declared martial law on Nov. 26, citing at the time possible imminent “full-scale war with Russia” and Russian tank and troop build-up, on Sunday noted that he will end martial law on Dec. 26 and the temporarily suspended presidential campaign will kick off should there be no Russian invasion. He also previously banned all Russian males ages 16-60 from entering Ukraine as part of implementation of 30 days of martial law over ten provinces, though it’s unclear if this policy will be rescinded.

During his remarks, the Ukrainian president said his country should push to join NATO and the EU within the next five years, per Bloomberg:

While declining to announce whether he will seek a second term in the office, Poroshenko said that Ukraine should achieve peace, overcome the consequences of its economic crisis and to meet criteria to join the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during next five years.

But concerning both his retaining power and his ongoing “threat exaggeration” — there’s even widespread domestic acknowledgement that the two are clearly linked.

According to The Globe and Mail:

While Mr. Poroshenko’s domestic rivals accuse him of exaggerating the threat in order to boost his own flagging political fortunes — polls suggest Mr. Poroshenko is on track to lose his job in a March election — military experts say there are reasons to take the Ukrainian president’s warning seriously.

As we observed previously, while European officials have urged both sides to exercise restraint, the incident shows just how easily Russia and the West could be drawn into a military conflict over Ukraine.

Certainly Poroshenko’s words appear designed to telegraph just such an outcome, which would keep him in power as a war-time president, hasten more and massive western military support and aid, and quicken his country’s entry into NATO — the latter which is already treating Ukraine as a de facto strategic outpost.

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