Let Everybody Follow the Example of America

October 3, 2013
Illustration: Corbis / Fotosa.ru

As the U.S. government shutdown continues, the Russian media hasn’t been shy about weighing in. Yesterday we published an article in the pro-Kremlin outlet Ria Novosti entitled “The American Government Doesn’t Exist – For Now,” where the author asked, “will tanks shoot at the Congressional Building?” This piece, published in the liberal outlet, “Snob,” is somewhat more balanced, and gives a series of quotes from prominent public figures. – Ed.

The United States ended up without a government and officials. Almost a million civil servants sent on indefinite leave because Republicans and Democrats could not agree on a budget. National parks, museums and attractions temporary closed. NASA suspended its operations, and the police and firefighters answer only emergency calls. Alexander Sidyakin, a deputy, and Ruslan Grinberg , an economist, and other experts told “Snob” about the problems of American democracy.

Alexander Sidyakin, a deputy:
This is democracy in action. One branch of government cannot agree with another. United States is a democratic country, they should solve their own problems, and no one should interfere. But they also should not interfere in what is happening here. Article 10 of our Constitution also provides for separation of powers. But, unlike the United States, we will never try to teach others and give grants to some non-profit organizations for criticizing Republicans or Democrats for not making certain decisions.

“You should all agree with each other. Look, 800,000 people have been sent on forced leave, your museums closed down and your environmental protection agency is not running! You are violating the rights of millions of ordinary Americans! You do not give them the opportunity to visit a museum, you bastards!”

We would never say that. Either directly or through NGOs. This is how we are different from our American colleagues. They are trying to poke their noses in any everything that is happening in the world.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a politician [Vice-Chairman of the State Duma – Ed.]:
If the United States government employees go on vacation for a couple of months, they will just take a rest and after a couple of months will resume their work, with renewed energy. There won’t be any losses.

American democracy works. This is a normal situation, if the budget is not approved, no one has the right to allocate any money on public spending. Otherwise the purpose of budget approval would be defeated, the purpose of the legislative power is questioned, and that power is very costly, just like any other branch.

In the U.S. there are only two parties, they failed to reach an agreement, so let them think it over and quickly come to some common denominator. Another example is Italy, where there are five or six parties, and every year the government resigns. Everybody should take an example or Italy, or America, whatever they like more.

Ruslan Grinberg, Director, the Institute of Economics:
Obama is the defender of the disadvantaged and the middle class. Republicans side with the rich. The rich have convinced the poor that they have only themselves to blame for the fact that they are poor. Each side will attempt to redirect the anger of the people to the opposite side and to recruit as many supporters as they can. But after a while everything will return to normal.

All the fuss broke out over the fact that the Republicans are against health care reform, that provides for issuing medical insurance for 30 million poor Americans. But it has nothing to do with any default and devaluation. It’s nonsense. There will be no sharp fluctuations in exchange rates or equity markets. The debt ceiling will be increased, but other economic consequences should not materialize.

Pavel Podlesniy, head of the Center for Russian-American Relations of the Institute of USA and Canada:
Why should we worry about the United States in the first place? Nothing will happen to that country or with its federal government. These are partisan games that would not go as far as to become a threat. Industry is working, the Pentagon is working, the State Department is working, so is the Treasury. In recent years this partisan disarray has been gaining momentum, which causes some concern among Americans. Republicans are trying to undermine Obama by any means, trying to get his health care law reversed or delayed. But all this will pass, there is nothing to fear. Let’s worry about Russia instead. Our system is too centralized for any kind of rivalry between parties. Generally speaking we don’t even have real parties.

Mikhail Neyzhmakov, Director, Center for Political Studies of the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements:
In 2010, the Democrats lost control over the lower house of Congress, and every year the debates over the budget result in major crises. One of the reasons why this year everything has gone so far is the upcoming midterm congressional elections. Republicans who control the House of Representatives want to show their constituents that they stubbornly defend their views on budget policy. They oppose the health care reform promoted by Obama. By blocking the spending bill, they demonstrate that they are ready to defend their radical financial and political views.

In Russia, this kind of situation is impossible if only for the reason that the “United Russia” has an absolute majority of seats in the State Duma. But even in the second half of the 90s, when the Duma was controlled by the Communist Party and its allies, the latter were always willing to compromise with the government. Nobody wants to pick a serious fight with the executive branch, so such a situation is not possible – neither now, nor in the immediate future.