On Friday September 21 at the University Club in Portland, Oregon the World Affairs Council of Oregon hosted Dmitri Trenin, a frequent guest on NPR, and leading expert on Russian US Relations. Trenin gave a fascinating 90 minute talk, including answering several questions. He highlighted that Putin has an 80 percent approval rating and added that Moscow alone, now the world’s most expensive city, has 95,000 millionaires.
When asked why so many former security agents are in key roles in Russia, both public and private, he noted that historically they have been more independent that military personnel. In general, military people did not do well with the breakup of the Soviet Union, he noted. They think of others, their regiment, etc. while security people were bred to be more independent and able to say, what in this for me. He added that the challenge for the next 20 years will be “rule of law.”
When asked about, Mikhail Fradkov, the financial regulator Putin has named as new prime minister, after discharging both his cabinet and the previous prime minister, Trenin noted that he was appointed due to his loyalty to Putin but added that he saw him as honest. This regulator’s primary role was addressing money laundering and restoring confidence among the international banks. He also made a major contribution in stabilizing Russia’s tax system. While in Saint Petersburg in June it was interesting to note that casinos, ideal for laundering money, and prevalent at metro stations, are being banished to Siberia.
Here in Portland Oregon, where lobbyists are representing Indian tribes battling over casino locations and other related parties, the debate is instead whether to site a casino in downtown Portland or in Cascade Locks, the heart of one of the world’s most beautiful places, The Columbia Gorge. Maybe Fradkov could do a brief consulting gig for Oregon’s governor Ted Kulongowski, The Oregon Legislature and the Portland City Council, and help protect this most extraordiary place, the Columbia Gorge.