RUSSIA'S WORST 2008 SCENARIOS:
Turkey Enters EU
European leaders do an about-face and fast-track Turkey for EU membership in 2008, in order to blunt the growing appeal of radical Islam. With Turkey now part of the Schengen visa regime, millions of Russian tourists find their 2008 holiday plans thrown into chaos. That leaves only one warm visa-friendly country left for Russian travelers: Egypt. However, the country's shores suffer a kind of "flies in the jar" scenario: overcrowded with Russian tourists, the Red Sea turns into a giant Chelyabinsk toilet, and the Sinai is declared a toxic dump. Life as we know it ceases on the Sinai. By December 2008, Russians' only visa-free vacation options are Belarus and Transdniestr.
The Silovik War
Too many Russians are under the illusion that so long as they let Putin handle politics, things will stay quiet. But the Silovik War is heating up, and already things aren't as quiet as they seem. To understand the Silovik War, imagine the equivalent of one team consisting of the FBI, the NSA, and the Justice Department, financed by Microsoft and Exxon; versus another team consisting of the CIA, the Secret Service, the Homeland Security Department and the Supreme Court, financed by Lockheed Martin and Google. 2007 saw high-profile arrests, turf battles, poisonings and media kompromat; 2008 could be the year that the war turns to the Big Guns--literally.
Luke Harding Still Here
The man most likely to bring down powerful Russian politicians and cause Moscow international embarrassment by regurgitating month-old articles published in the German press, The eXile, and The Moscow Times continues to threaten Russia's image after the presidential elections. Luke Harding begins his '08 attack early, with a menacing January expose on Medvedev's longstanding connections to Vladimir Putin. The piece, entitled "The Law Professor Who Came in From the Cold," begins with the sentence, "Newly elected Russian president Dimitry Medvedev is part of a clique of St. Petersburg politicians closely linked to ex-KGB officer Vladimir Putin, the Guardian has learned. As reported in The Moscow Times in 1999, Dmitry Medvedev..."
New Anti-Hippie Visa Rules Bring Ruin
New work-visa requirements for expats mean that Russia loses its valuable supply of hippie slackers to teach English. Suddenly in crisis, Russian language schools team up with the Foreign Ministry to replace American and British expat teachers with teachers from Abkhazia and Uzbekistan, but the experiment fails. By April, the cost of a private English lesson in Moscow rises to $1,500 an hour. Hippie trekkers are kidnapped and disappeared into Rublevka mansion basements in order to teach oligarch children. Russia Today closes down. Summer sees a series of unexplained explosions and electricity grid failures around the capital. The 2008 wheat crop mysteriously fails despite good rain and weather, leading to mass famine and social chaos as Russians battle over food stocks. All because Russia senselessly required English teachers to get work permits. Really, Mr. Putin, was it worth it?
War In The Caucasus
Two-thousand and seven was the year that the West finally started to recognize that Russia won the "unwinnable" Chechnya War—for now, at least—and was in the process of "rebuilding" the war-torn republic. However, 2007 was also the year that the rest of the Russian Caucasus started to light up: in Ingushetia, high-profile assassinations, mass protests against the corrupt leadership, and ethnic cleansing of Russians; in North Ossetia, ethnic cleansing of Ingush; explosions and "terrorist" attacks in Karbadino-Balkaria and Karachai-Cherkessia; and political hits in Dagestan. Folks, it's just beginning.