The lines of unemployed workers who line up for a free bowl of soup at outdoor kitchens are growing. Families wait for hours outside banks to empty their accounts before buying anything of value — electronics, furniture — before prices soar even higher.
“Everybody wants to protect themselves so that what happened in the 1990s won’t repeat itself,”… __ Problem Nation
Among Russians’ weaknesses is a proclivity for believing in all kinds of strange ideas, a tendency that manifests itself in persecution manias, neo-Eurasianism, and zapadophobia (fear of the West) as well as the exaggerated belief in Russia’s historical destiny. Such afflictions are by no means exclusively Russian. They can be found to varying degrees in many countries. Nationalist feelings have been running high in many countries, but it is difficult to think of an accumulation of hatred similar to what has taken place in Russia in recent years. It could be argued that such afflictions may not last forever; they may weaken or even disappear. But in an age of weapons of mass destruction, they are a major danger. __ Can Russia Have a Future?
Russia’s GDP may fall as much as 15% or more this year, with inflation rising to 20% or higher. Perhaps much higher. France is pushing for relaxation of sanctions against the invaders, but that is because French interests are so heavily invested in Russia and stand to suffer huge financial losses from the Russian debacle. Germany and Poland are likely to prevent any relaxation of sanctions so long as the invaders persist in their bad behaviour.
According to Vladimir Mau—a leading economist and long-time Kremlin adviser—a “perfect storm” has hit the Russian financial system and economy: “The price of oil is falling, sanctions are hurting, the national workforce is decreasing as Russian baby-boomers born in the 1950s are retiring.” The twofold devaluation of the ruble during 2014 cannot quickly or substantially stimulate local industrial output, because there is “practically zero spare output capability,” according to Mau. Russia badly needs massive investment and new technologies that do not seem to be forthcoming. The Russian economy was heading into a prolonged period of stagnation even absent the dramatic fall in oil prices, without the Crimea annexation or the crisis in Ukraine. But now the economy is heading into a freefall. The consensus opinion of Russian economic experts is to expect… inflation reaching 15–20 percent in 2015 (rbc.ru, December 26, 2014). __ Putin’s Perfect Storm
The question is no longer: “Can Russia be saved from Putin?” The question is: “can the Russians be saved from themselves?”
Russia resembles Africa in many ways. Both Africa and Russia are rich in natural resources, but drowning in corruption and violence.
Neither Africans nor Russians appear able to outgrow the need to be ruled by authoritarian dictatorships so corrupt as to make normal grass roots economic activity impossible.
Africa has long been at the top of lists of “hopeless causes,” but until recently it has been felt that Russia might be saved from Africa’s fate. After all, the average population IQ in Russia is roughly 20 points higher than the “75 plus or minus 5” average IQ of sub Saharan Africans.
Political scientists heatedly debate the nature of Putin’s Russia. Is it a throwback to the Soviet era? An authoritarian nationalist regime? A kleptocracy engaged in little more than racketeering on a large scale? ___ Russia is no place to live
Unfortunately, very bad leadership is bringing Russia low. Eventually — without a turn to reality which is most unlikely — Russia will reach a “tipping point” beyond which salvation is impossible.
“The Eurasian Union as a platform for rebuilding Russia as a global power — that has become pure fantasy now,”…. “We have been staring at the Ukraine crisis as a geopolitical game which Putin was winning. In fact, he has gambled all his geopolitical chips away. Putin has undermined the little soft power Moscow had left in the post-Soviet space, and now economic crisis is finishing off the rest.” __ FT
Russia is steadily losing influence in neighboring nations, and is creating fierce enemies of nations that were in the past friendly or neutral. Putin’s government is a precarious mix of Hitlerism and Stalinism. And although Russia’s economy is now smaller than that of Australia, Canada, or Spain, Russian threats of unleashing a nuclear holocaust still contain the semblance of substance.
Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine has caused unease, distrust and outright fear among Russia’s other neighbours. Both Mr Lukashenko and Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan, Russia’s other core ally in the post-Soviet bloc, have refused to back Mr Putin in his stand-off with Kiev and stressed that Ukraine is not their enemy.
Some in the region argue that while Mr Putin has been feted as a leader who restored power, respect and glory for Russia, his policies of the past year have in fact led his country into virtual isolation. __ FT
Russia is likely to default on a significant portion of foreign debt, bringing its credit rating the rest of the way down. This will make re-building all the more difficult.
Meanwhile, China remains in the background, encouraging Russia to take advantage of the dragon’s “generous support” for the bear. China has Russia’s back. But since China’s assistance to Russia results in China gaining all of Russia’s military and industrial secrets, China can only smile at Russia’s lack of real world understanding and sophistication. Or perhaps it is merely desperation that drives Russia to depend upon its covetous neighbor?
More on Russia’s Siberia problem, and other potentially fatal defects.
Greater damage will occur as a result of massive capital flight. In the first half of 2014, capital flight amounted to nearly $70 billion, and is projected to reach $160 billion by the end of the year. Russia will also suffer further brain drain as the government cracks down on the remaining independent media and promulgates draconian laws on freedom of expression. In addition to the high cost of foreign policy adventurism, Russia is also plagued by indigenous structural economic discrepancies, which make its elites richer, the rest of the population poorer, and the economy less competitive. With the ongoing hostilities against Ukraine, the Russian economic prognosis has only gotten worse.
… The lack of economic opportunity and social mobility have destroyed hope in the country’s future and driven many of the educated and entrepreneurial younger Russians to emigrate to achieve success. This, in turn, has hindered investment in the Russian economy, incentivized capital flight, aggravated the brain drain, and strengthened Russia’s authoritarian regime.
Solving these issues would require a change of heart both at the highest levels of Russian society and government as well as among ordinary people. If these problems are not tackled in the near future, Russia risks becoming a corrupt police state with even higher dependence on exports of raw materials that have a well-established history of price volatility, with negative economic and social consequences for its long-term future.
No longer can the almost fifteen to twenty thousand deaths and injuries of Russian soldiers in Ukraine be concealed from their mothers and the community. Although Putin swears that all fallen Russian soldiers were patriotic “volunteers” or were killed in “accidents,” their mothers know otherwise. Only one in seven Russians are prepared for their sons to fight in Ukraine. Not much of a patriotic groundswell for Putin’s Novorossiya.
The Kremlin has done its best to conceal casualties by resorting to early morning burials, threats to parents to keep quiet, even portable crematoria on the battlefield. Putin and his cronies can shut down dissidents, but they cannot silence the soldiers’ mothers. The Petersburg association of mothers is currently appealing its listing as a “foreign agent.” Imagine the outrage that would follow a lost appeal in a country of single-child families. Putin is playing with fire on this one.
Russian Special Forces started the war and kept it going. In other areas of east and south Ukraine where Russian hybrid warfare forces were absent, the few demonstrations quickly faded away. Public opinion polls have consistently revealed that southeast Ukrainians have grievances against Kiev, but they wish to remain a part of Ukraine. Those who live in territories occupied by Russian soldiers and mercenaries regard them as unwelcome and dangerous invaders, even if they have no love lost for Ukrainian shelling.
Putin’s invasion of southeast Ukraine has accomplished the almost impossible—the creation of a united Ukraine, bound together by common hatred of Putin and his inner circle. A parliament that strongly opposed NATO membership before the Maidan revolution voted on December 23, 2014 to end Ukraine’s non-aligned status—the very move that Putin fought to avoid. Unlike Russia, which has no chance of reform under Putin, the “new Ukraine”—to use George Soros’s description—welcomes reform and is under strong pressure from Europe to do so. __ Shame on Putin
The state of mind of the ruling Russian elite is at present one of great agitation; the fact that Russia has many nuclear weapons is mentioned virtually every week. Marxism-Leninism has been abandoned and replaced by a strange mixture of abstruse assertions and theories—such as neo-Eurasianism, as if the fact that Russia has problems with Europe makes it an Asian power. The invocation of a Russian manifest destiny and the specific Russian spiritual values said to be greatly superior to Western decadence is very impressive. But how great is the distance between this and Russian realities?
Self-criticism has not been in fashion in Russia for a long time: Whenever something goes wrong, it must be the fault of the West. There is the widespread and profound belief in all kinds of conspiracy theories, the more outlandish the better and more popular. This mind-set is not at all funny in the age of weapons of mass destruction. __ Russia’s Decline is in Its Mind
Russia is reduced to KGB-esque tactics of financing western environmentalist groups such as Sierra Club and and Center for American Progress, black, muslim, and latino militant groups, and recruiting college coeds in the west to spy for a much diminished Russia.