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Cutting-Edge Incompetence

In October, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Rusnano head Anatoly Chubais visited the Mikron factory in Zelenograd, located 37 kilometers outside Moscow, where the newest Russian 180-nanometer microchips are being produced. An agreement was signed there stipulating that if the state invests another 16 billion rubles ($556 million), the plant can begin producing cutting-edge 90-nanometer chips.

Over the last decade, microchip circuit spans have halved every two years. On Sept. 15, two weeks before Putin’s visit to the company, Intel Corporation announced a new 32-nanometer chip. Almost all major companies currently use 45-nanometer chips. That means that by the time Mikron begins producing 90-nanometer chips in four years, Intel will probably be working with chip circuits as small as 5 to 10 nanometers.

That would be like if the fellows at high-tech firm Sitronics showed Putin a newly developed fighter bomber with a top speed of only 160 kilometers per hour and promised that they could double the speed if the state pumped another $200 million into the program. The guys at Sitronics were not fired on the spot.

In early June, Interfax reported this stunning bit of news: “After a two-year delay, the Russian president took delivery of a new radio relay aircraft that is capable of remaining in communication during flight. On Monday, two Tu-214SR aircraft arrived at Vnukovo Airport.” The report went on to describe the radio relay communication system as being the most reliable in the world.

In other words, in this age of satellite communications, when a U.S. army sergeant can view a real-time picture of the battlefield transmitted by a drone aircraft, the Russian president was presented with two antique flying cell phones with a combined price of 2.6 billion rubles ($90.4 million). Apparently, Russia will soon begin using the cutting-edge system of smoke signals to transit information.

For some reason, the creators of this “miraculous flying phone” were not fired on the spot.

Last week, Deputy Economic Development Minister Andrei Klepach announced that his ministry was proposing amendments that would allow officials to designate roads as toll roads even if there were no alternative free roads, as is done “in Germany and China.”

I’ve got news for Klepach: There are no toll roads in Germany. What’s more, Russia already has a toll road law, and it defines an “alternative road” as a free road that is at least three times longer than the parallel toll road.

But Klepach was not shot or fired for incompetence.

Being a philologist, I can’t even guess what Russian scientists are thinking when they read about  “cutting-edge 180-nanometer chip technology.” Are they crying or cursing over the current state of affairs?

But thank goodness that in his search for new technologies and new solutions, President Dmitry Medvedev has taken some definite steps. He ordered the head of his administration to seriously study blogger Maxim Kalashnikov’s proposal that Russia create a “bioagroecopolis” — a prototypical “city of the future” filled with the latest technological innovations.

Could it really be that our leaders care nothing about the country and worry only about their private villas and other assets overseas?

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.

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