Environmental Ethics
and Public Policy
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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Sviatoslav Zabelin
Socio-Ecological Union

A vote took place in the Russian State Duma on December 21, 2000 to determine who is able (taking into account preceding and the coming events) to make forecasts reaching far beyond the Russian borders..

There was a vote on the amendments to "The Law on Nature and Environment Protection" which legalized the import into Russia of foreign nuclear waste i.e., radioactive waste from foreign power stations, intended for storing and processing. There were two more laws on handling the waste and the revenue (see The Declaration of the International Socio-Ecological Union). The information campaign had lasted for many months, even years, and though every deputy was aware that 90% of the Russian population would oppose turning the country into somebody else's dump, 90% of the deputies nevertheless voted for the amendments and for the attendant laws. On that day all the masks were taken off and all the actors on the Russian political stage showed their real faces.

Firstly, all political parties, factions and associations from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation to the Union of the Right Wing Forces, with the exception of the "Yabloko" faction, said frankly to their electorate that they are most unwilling to consider the people's interests and to take them into account in their decisions. In addition to all the other problems, this decision is bound to mean the end of the myth that the Parliamentary election has greater impact for Russia's future than "The Field of Wonder" television quiz program or the ice hockey championship.

Secondly, it is common knowledge that the "Yedinstvo" faction always votes according to signals sent by the Putin Administration, for which purpose it has been organized. This is reason enough to conclude that this faction's policy is characterized by a neglect of the opinions and interests of the people when these popular concerns run counter to the interests and structures of the Administration. In particular, it is useless to complain about the Ministry of the Nuclear Power Industry (Minatom).

Thirdly, the newly-born myth of the end of the oligarchs' influence on Russia's politics is clearly refuted by the fact that the Ministry of Nuclear Power Energy is no longer a government regulatory body, but has in fact become a powerful industrial corporation whose interests are closely connected with the interests of the similar foreign companies, whose money money and influence is manifested in the same manner as that of other oligarchs.

The vote on nuclear waste import,. together with the other features indicating the beginning of "the new time," reveals an erosion of the legislative reforms of the Yeltsin era reforms which somehow protected the people from the arbitrary rule of the federal government. Everything that stands in the way of economic development which is understood as the rapid sell-out of natural resources, will be disposed of. (See the article "The Government has decided to call upon Russia to Take up an Axe").

Add to this the elimination of the state bodies charged to enforce the laws regarding environmental protection and natural resource management, along with the increasing collaboration of law enforcement agencies on the one hand and business interests on the other (which only the lazy fail to write about), and we may clearly see that what the second President of the Russian Federation has devised is a kind of "police capitalism" (L. Sedova, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta , February 14, 2001 "Scenarios").

There cannot be a more accurate wording.. However, it is worthy of comment that such a combination the two words might convey quite an opposite meaning. "Capitalism" should be understood as common pillage which was given the name of "the initial accumulation of capital" by the romantics of Perestroika. "Police" is bound to mean the system of measures protecting the robbers from various obstacles caused by the law.

At the same time it is important that we realize just what we are witnessing. The nature of all the branches of power has changed and none of them now performs the duty to society for which the society pays it ( by means of taxes, or as is the case with mass media, by means of market mechanisms),

The executive power no longer provides the peoples' security (personal, military, ecological, etc.} which constitutes its main function. 

The Judiciary observes and enforces, less and less, the existing laws.

The legislative branch no longer conducts itself according to its own rules, in addressing the interests of the greater part of the voters.

The mass media, that is the fourth power, do not provide the people with objective information.
While single employees of those branches attempt to honestly do their duties, they are the exceptions and the system takes every step to get rid of them.

I doubt that in any post-Soviet country in the post-Soviet period the evolution of the branches of state power has taken another course.

The era of the Law as the regulator of social processes has come to an end. It has been succeed by an epoch when the life will be determined by collisions of interests, and it is likely to be comparatively short but extremely tragic. This process is not only characteristic of Russia or of the post-Soviet countries; rather, it is a global process an actual globalization, so much spoken of , which has revealed its face during the NATO military action in Yugoslavia, and especially afterwards as the distorted information that served as justification for the so-called "humanitarian bombing" became known.

However difficult it is to admit, we must understand that the era of playing without rules has begun. One should also remember the fundamental scientific principle that established systems develop an inertia which may not be reversed, and that that which is done cannot be undone. Something else is most likely to emerge, not less complicated.

The Russian ecological movement has responded to the challenge in the only appropriate way: by consolidating and then demonstrating its consolidation. In extraordinary haste, an Extraordinary Congress on Nature Protection convened in Moscow in June with about 400 participants. At the same time an all-Russian referendum was prepared under the motto "For Nature," for which three million signatures were gathered (about 2.5 million signatures were submitted to the election commissions).

Following the "historic" vote in the Duma a coordinated campaign called "Anti-Nuclear Resistance" was launched in dozens of cities, while leading public associations such as Greenpeace of Russia", the Russian chapter of the World Wildlife Willdife, the International Socio-Ecological Union including the Center for protection of wild life, and the "Dront" ecological center met together to coordinate their efforts. Later they were joined by the Russian Center of Ecological Policy and the Union 'For Chemical Security" of the International Socio-Ecological Union.

In January the Address to the President of Russia initiated by Alexey Vladimirovich Yablokov was signed by an unprecedentedly high number of over six hundred public associations, many of which had concerns other than ecology.

The authorities quite fairly classified those taking part in the action as "the real Greens" -- that is, as a political movement setting both ecological and general democratic demands . The authorities' thus attempted to form under their auspices "the proper public" which, in contrast to ourselves (the SEU and its allies) they called "real ecologists." At first these so-called "real ecologists" were the employees of the nuclear industry, then the coalition of the KEDR and the Green Cross, and the heads of all-Russian academies.

Unconfirmed information suggests that this campaign of creating "the bugbear of the public opinion" is now admitted to have been a failure, and the order has been received to seek contacts with real ecological organizations to settle the dispute.

The first issue of the magazine in the new century is mainly devoted to the description of those events. As for me I would like to finish this article with another address to our foreign readers in the West, in the East and in the South. Look attentively at what is going on in Russia, try to understand that present day Russia is not a mistake of History, it is the undesirable future of many countries of the world which call themselves "civilized". Actually it is the undesirable future of the whole world if there is no alternative to the quiet spread throughout the world of US sponsored "police capitalism."


Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .