Vladimir Putin: International Man of Misery

The only… option is to leave the country — but where to go? The closest and simplest destination is Europe, but there terrorists have killed the editors of Charlie Hebdo, and the euro costs more than most Russians can afford. It seems that a very difficult year has begun, and not only for Russia. __ Russia Sliding Into Chaos Pulling the World Along With It

The Misery Begins in Russia and Spreads Out from There

Russian authorities are calling for calm, as the misery of economic decline sets in. Purchasing power of Russian savings has been cut in half. Inflation is headed toward 20%. Interest rates are likewise heading toward 20% and perhaps much higher. Unemployment is rising in lockstep. Misery inside Russia was already high, but thanks to Putin it is spreading rapidly.

Russian wallets: This year could see the first decline in real incomes in Russia since Putin came to power with a social contract that promised rising wealth at the expense of full political participation. According to PISM, GDP per capita will fall to $8,000-$10,000 in 2015, down from $14,000 in 2013. That, added to rising inflation, will mean ordinary Russians start feeling an undeniable pinch in their own pocket.

Public resentment of sanctions: So far, Putin appears to be winning the propaganda war. Since March last year, the number of Russians saying that they care about the country’s western isolation has fallen from around 57 per cent to just over 30 per cent in August. Over the same period, the proportion saying that the were not afraid of the consequences of sanctions rose from around 32 per cent to almost 70 per cent, according to the PISM report. “Sanctions appear to be helping Putin. But lifting sanctions would help him more,” says Secrieru’s colleague Piotr Koscinski.

Putin’s cult of personality: Puiblic approval of Mr Putin;s policies was above 80 per cent in the last quarter of last year, according to the report. That’s the highest level in five years, underscoring sanctions’ use as a blunt object to hurt MR Putin’s standing at home. “Expect more T-shirts with Putin’s face on them being sold on the streets of Moscow,” said Mr Secreiru.

Travel agents: It has not been a good nine months for Russia’s travel industry. Moscow has “advised” officials not to travel abroad, and in July banned public servants from travelling overseas on tickets paid for by foreign entities. As a result, demand for foreign travel fell 50 per cent, an estimated 4-5m foreign journeys by government employees have been cancelled, and 14 Russian travel agencies have gone bankrupt, according to the report. Holidaying in Crimea has been suggested by the Kremlin as an alternative.

How Did Putin Become So Wealthy and Powerful?

Putin’s path to the top of a corrupt oligarchy was a long and tortuous one. Here are a few highlights along the way:

1. The food that never came. During his time as Deputy Mayor of St. Petersburg, the city faced a food shortage. A program allowed the selling of raw materials abroad and the money made would be used to purchase food. Putin promised tons of food. Literally. Two thousand tons of butter and milk for example. But the food never came. City councilor Marina Salye investigated what happened. She says $124 million disappeared. The tons of food never showed up on the shelves. Putin denied the charges and blamed others for it.

2. The vacation villas in Spain. Putin had registered an economic relations committee called Twentieth Trust. The government gave the company 2.5 billion rubles for a construction project. Nothing was constructed. Instead, former police investigator Andrey Zykov says the money went to vacation villas in Spain for Putin and his cronies. No one punished Deputy Mayor Putin.

3. Saving his associates. Putin served as Deputy Mayor under Anatoly Sobchak. In 1996, Sobchak lost his bid for another term as mayor. Corruption investigations followed. But during questioning, Sobchak had a heart attack. He showed up in Paris several weeks later, looking great. Sobchak’s window, Lyudmila Narusova, says Putin helped get her husband out of the country, escaping the corruption charges. This loyalty is also thought to be the reason former President Boris Yeltsin hand-picked Putin as his successor. Yeltsin didn’t want any investigations into his time as president. When Putin came to power, he gave Yeltsin immunity.

4. Putin’s retirement home. Putin has a complicated way of funneling money to pet projects, like a vacation home outside Sochi. Exiled businessman Sergei Kolesnikov says money travels from one organization to another and ends up in a business where Putin owns the majority stake. This helped him build his dream home, a $250 million pad worthy of a modern day czar. Putin says the pad isn’t his.

5. Putin’s getting rich. The various moneymaking schemes have been good to Putin. Back in 2007, Putin controlled assets worth $40 billion. The CIA confirmed this estimate in 2014. He’s one of the world’s richest individuals. So the past couple decades have been good for the former, unemployed KGB agent. __ Little Big Man Realpolitik

10% Budget Cuts Across the Board — Except for Propaganda, Spying, Hacking, and Warmongering

Essential services in Russia had already been cut to the bone. Further cuts are going to hurt at the grass roots, mom & pop level. With rising unemployment, skyrocketing inflation, downgrading of the currency, and a rising sense of what was already a suicidal despair, misery levels are heading well past the red line.

Russia’s economic model for the past 15 years has been based on export of the country’s vast raw materials, primarily energy, by big state-owned and Kremlin-friendly businesses. Then the proceeds are used to buy back Western consumer goods and foodstuffs favored by the population. Those business tycoons, known as oligarchs, made money coming and going on that cycle, but didn’t bother to plow much of it back into domestic industry or agriculture.

The Kremlin, its revenues buoyed by expanding oil prices, redistributed much of that through higher pensions and public sector salaries, leading to a fourfold increase in popular living standards that is still the basis of President Vladimir Putin’s stratospheric public approval ratings. The Kremlin also invested huge sums into grand projects like the Sochi Olympics and an ambitious rearmament program.

That model has been showing strains for some time. But with oil prices plummeting and Western sanctions biting, it is facing its toughest test since the 1990s. __CSM

The military budget has long been a pipeline for diversion of funds to the private accounts of Putin and other oligarchs. Corruption will be the last thing to be cut in Putin’s Russia of misery.

Many parts of the economy, which relies heavily on public spending, will be affected, though Russia’s vast military modernization program and spending on infrastructure reforms will remain untouched as the country tries to reassert its power in the face of the West. ___ Source

Is Russia’s Military Doctrine All Bark and No Bite? Probably not. But given the levels of corruption and incompetence inside the military and the military industrial complex, Russia will get nowhere near the bite that it nominally pays for.

Should Russia fear these American weapons of war? To some extent, perhaps. But Russia should fear what China is doing behind its back far more.

Putin is making the same mistake as [deposed President] Viktor Yanukovych did in Ukraine, giving ever more to his friends and very little to the others. Putin has been very good previously at distributing widely, but now he has tightened it so that it only goes to his close friends, and that is not likely to be popular.

The elite [who aren’t part of his inner circle] are utterly alienated from Putin now. I don’t think they will rise in any way against Putin, but they will take money out of the country as fast as they can, so it will further destabilize the country.

The question is what will happen in the big industrial cities outside the most wealthy cities — Moscow and St. Petersburg. It would be surprising if we don’t see some social unrest down the road, because these are big blows to ordinary people. __PBS

The extremity of the Kremlin’s position shows that Russian leaders have literally “blown a fuse.” Their ability to reflect upon their own words and deeds has given way to knee-jerk reactions that, in contrast to Putin’s rule from 2003 to 2011, provide for no rational end to the current escalation of tensions. __Putinism Threatens the End of Russia

Putin as a rat in a box

Putin promised the Russian people that the “Russian World” could be reconstituted with no economic costs and loss of Russian lives. The Russian people, thanks to his propaganda, have not yet fully understood this is a lie. When they do, his regime will be at risk.

Trying to recapture a vanished past

“Current events in Ukraine… thrillingly avenge everything that was thought impossible … Unrecognized Tiraspol is preparing for a referendum and Russia is hinting that it can officially recognize the breakaway state. And then there will be a Novorossiya – from Lugansk to Tiraspol – like Crimea, ours, regardless of whether there is global recognition and irrespective of the opinions of people in Luhanks and Donetsk. it will exist to counter existing enemies, foreign and domestic. It will cut off Ukraine from the sea … It’s not just revenge – its a national idea. One does not refuse such a chance.”

This is the type of magical thinking that Hitler indulged in, before the fateful decision to war. It is the type of madness that results in ever expanding misery.

Mr. Putin is “the ultimate sugar daddy,” offering protection to his cronies while making young Russian girls swoon with his shirtless photos. No one can stop striving because no one has property rights. As aluminum billionaire Oleg Deripaska puts it: “All that I have belongs to the state.” __ Karen Dawisha

Russians are exhibiting the classic traits of people who are trapped in abusive relationships. And many are still in denial about the nature of their relationship with their leader, even as the abuse intensifies. Harking back to the tsars and Lenin and Stalin, Pomerantsev notes: “The country seems transfixed in adoration of abusive leaders.” __Russians Addicted to Abuse

Putin is facing a mutiny from parents of dead and wounded soldiers

The Russian government denies they have troops in Donbas but it is an open secret in Russia that they do and too many parents of Russian soldiers killed in Donbas are demonstrating their anger at government efforts to keep them quiet about where their sons died and how. In addition to the parents there is also the problem of Russian soldiers ignoring orders and posting their exploits in Ukraine on Facebook and other social networking sites. There aren’t many secrets in this secret war.

While the angry and Internet savvy parents are annoying the economic problems accompanying the secret war are very public and increasingly terrifying. The government is desperate to deal with the economic problems. For example the government is coercing Russian companies and wealthy individuals to move foreign cash back to Russia. Hundreds of billions of dollars were moved out of Russia by Russian citizens once the Western sanctions began a year ago and that hurt the economy (by depriving Russian businesses of capital). While the state-controlled Russian media is ignoring the impact of the sanctions and the declining oil price most Russians can’t help but notice (and personally suffer from) the high inflation, shortage of foreign goods and rising unemployment.

… the Putin centralization of government power has prevented the economy from growing and becoming competitive. The cost of grabbing Donbas is rising and if too many Russians decide it is not worth it, even the newly rebuilt Russian police state will be in danger. It happened to the czars, then to the communists and it can happen to the next lot of delusional megalomaniacs.

The misery in Russia grows, and spreads outward. There is no reason to believe that the current regime — or any likely future regime that ordinary vodka-drinking Russians might choose — will do anything to reduce this misery that now has a global reach.

Putin sees Europe as too weak to put up much of a fight

Like Hitler, Putin expects a weak Europe to lay down before him like a carpet

Putin’s criminal past

France is hurting from Russian sanctions. France is over-invested in Russia, and will pay a price.

Vladimir Putin: International Man of Misery

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13 Responses to Vladimir Putin: International Man of Misery

  1. A.B Prosper says:

    It reminds me of a Borges quote about two bald men fighting over a comb.

    As I’ve said whatever the situation is in Russia, the West is on its way to oblivion just as well . With comparable birth rates, lower in many areas, declining infrastructure and several huge fifth columns of Marxists, Islamacists and (in the US) Reconquista Latinos and worse we will not do much better in the long run.

    Its possible that several of the countries will either have right wing takeovers (possibly by people friendly with Putin or even indirectly aided by him) or so simply implode into violence and martial law.

    This includes the US BTW

    Taking as an example, Greece. Its no better off than Russia is (from global research.ca)

    These cold, linear figures disguise an ever harder reality; the social destruction, misery and outright death – death by lacking health services and from complications due to starvation – the austerity programs brought with them. Overall unemployment is hovering above 25% and around 65% for young people (15-24 yrs.). Further annihilation of Greece’s social fabric includes cuts in pensions (20%), minimum wages (22%), 5%reduction in social security – and, of course, the neoliberal one-fits-all solution of privatization – land, public utilities, mining rights (with no environmental safeguards) and other state assets.

    Much of the rest of the EU is no better off in the long run. Russia OTOH has actually managed to get its population up a bit and may given time be able to get it to grow at a decent clip.

    And yes granted mortality rates are high. Its not relevant if Russian men die at say 55 if they raise 2 or more children to adulthood. They aren’t there yet but this setback aside they are closer than anywhere in East, West or Central Europe and tied with the US. Actually given fertility rates, Russia might be better off as well given the highest US TFR’s are among the dysgenic classes

    German men for example dying at 75 aren’t “better” in the long term if they are having children at ultra low rates,

    Now I concur that Russia has massive internal problems and endemic corruption but so does the US and so do many European nations and the US (I can’t speak for anyone else) has no social mobility either. An American without that is little better off than Russia and will be worse when the welath runs low.

    As for population diaspora, so do many nations, Pole, Brits. Irish, South Africans anyone who can is trying to find. Globalism is ruining life for basically everyone except a few rich oligarchs

    A last bit, as for those billionaires on the whole he is pretty careful and has chosen not too rock the boat here are lots of ways to get even with them if Putin so desires not limited to fiscal games and outright assassination, something he has done before (and we do via drone)

    This is assuming his alternate to SWIFT is a failure as well or that the US can indefinitely maintain its leverage over Europe

    The idea here is that we can get rid of Putin and somehow prop up dollar hegemony it is laughable at best. Our internal issues are killing us And that what this mostly, the same reason we invaded Iraq, to protect our own economic interests, prop up the system and to make sure that the dollar is the only global reserve currency

    This will not happen and knowing how the US works. We won’t ease sanctions until a puppet is in place or they backfire completely and we can’t keep them up. Given what we’ve done to to other leaders that have crossed us , Putin is wise to not to cooperate.

    As far as war, its unlikely but if it happens it will be the US that pulls the trigger, a few Neo-Cons are desperate enough to start a war and the oligarchs figure they’ll come out ahead . That however is a bad bet, if the unthinkable happened I’d expect favorite oligarch hangouts to get hit as well. Given such a war is one of extermination, alleged neutrality or not there is no rational reason not to do this and Russians are nothing if not rational.

    That said I do not think any such thing is going to happen and what is going to happen is a few people, in the West and in Russia will get rich and shaft everyone else on Planet Earth till someone figures out a solution, nations fall to ultra-nationalism or the parasites kill the host.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Interesting comment, thanks.

      A bit of research reveals that Russia’s problems are orders of magnitude deeper, higher, and wider than those of most western nations. The Charlie Hebdo massacre reveals Europe’s problem allowing large-scale immigration of violent, fanatical, third world people. But then Russia’s cities have been flooded with muslim immigrants as well, who have grudges to settle against Moscow and Russia.

      Russia’s people suffer great misery. More with each passing day. This misery should not be taken for granted nor should Russians’ capacity to suffer be assumed to be infinite in dimensions. The misery should not be minimised by false comparisons, nor obscured by immersion within a global sense of doom.

      Crime and corruption are so deeply integrated into the fabric of Russian society that any transformation to a survivable or sustainable system would be painful — much more painful than the aborted transformation of the 1990s. The real story has been well obscured by Kremlin propaganda, but it is not impossible to tease out.

  2. bob sykes says:

    First, one should not gloat over Russia’s problems, or Putin’s failures or the penury of the Russian people. A failed Russian state still has the world’s largest, and likely most capable, nuclear arsenal. Besides the possibility of a desperate leadership lashing out and destroying large parts of Europe and North America, there is the possibility that the arsenal will be sold off or stolen. Think of North Korea with a few dozen Russian ICBM’s, or Iran. Even a conventional war in central Europe would be a catastrophe.

    And then there is China. China needs a healthy Russia as an ally. China would likely intervene in a failed Russia to prop it up. Russia would become a Chinese dependency, controlled by China.

    You keep drawing the new Sino-Russian border at the Urals. Why not the Volga, or Dniepr, or Dniestr or Vistula in Poland? Mongol armies have controlled the Russian/Ukrainian steppe in the past. A failed Russia, dependent on and controlled by China, is likely the foundation for a new Chinese super state and world hegemony.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Exactly. A failed Russia is likely to have dire consequences for the entire world. That is why we are warning readers about what is happening. Russophiles paper over the danger, rot, and decay. We refuse to do that. The risk is too great.

      • KW says:

        A failed Russia could also be taken over by the US/NATO. Whereas a healthy Russia could be independent and or pro-China. In that case, wouldn’t you support the former?

        • alfin2101 says:

          Neither Europe nor the Anglosphere seem to be in the “empire-building” mode, nor have they been for the past many decades. The US gave up far more territories voluntarily in the 20th century than were acquired. Europe is mostly interested in an economic union to facilitate prosperity and trade. Neither the Anglosphere nor Europe are in a position to take over and administer Siberia.

          China, on the other hand, is already moving into Siberia. Many parts of Siberia are already more Chinese than Russian — and that trend can only accelerate.

          • KW says:

            I mean US and NATO, that is the US and Europe under US leadership or command. Not Europe or the Anglosphere, which are irrelevant geopolitically relative to the US/NATO.

            By “take over” I don’t mean directly occupy and administer, but to have a pro-US/NATO regime installed with perhaps US military bases like many countries have today, such as Japan or South Korea.

          • alfin2101 says:

            Think it through. I’m sure you will begin to see some serious problems with that scenario. There are no easy ways out of the box Putin has put Russia into.

    • KW says:

      If Russia can destroy the US and Europe, both of which have more nukes than China, why would it have trouble defending against China?

      • alfin2101 says:

        It is not a question of destroying outright. Russia can create total chaos in North America and Europe more easily than in China. Russia has reason to create chaos and demoralisation in the Anglosphere and Europe, but it cannot afford to do so in China.

        Russia has gone out of its way to isolate itself from Europe and North America the past 12 months — and to become more reliant upon China. Russia is leaning on China for more and more of its needs. Kremlin propaganda is almost completely anti-US with very little to say about China.

        In other words, although Russian leaders understand their almost total vulnerability to China, they must still go ahead with their plans of turning over all military and industrial secrets to China — and pretend as if China will never stab Russia in the back.

        • KW says:

          Russia has a much greater nuclear advantage over China than it does over US/NATO.

          If Russia is almost totally controlled by China, as you seem to suggest here, then wouldn’t a failed Russia be preferable?

          • alfin2101 says:

            Again, it is not a matter of a straight-up nuclear war. Rather it is a matter of creating economic and social chaos in the enemy country. The tools of “war” include cyber attacks on crucial infrastructure, and even a cats’ paw EMP shut-down of large power grids — coordinated with manipulated militant groups hiding within ethnic and religious minorities erupting into guerilla war attacks.

            This type of action requires planning and close liaisons of all types. A number of sleeper agents in place wouldn’t hurt. Of useful idiots, there are plenty in high places.

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