We could be talking about “President Hope and Change Obama,” who has single-handedly set back US national and international relations and opportunities decades. But there is another former “president of hope” on the world stage who has transformed his country in a deeply negative way:
Almost 17 years ago, Putin became a “president of hope,” as defined at that time by Russia’s most renowned sociologist Yury Levada, the founder of the Levada Center.
… This has all changed. In the latest Levada poll, the highest number of respondents in recent years say they have never relied on the president. The dreams of the past are long gone by now.
“There are no hopes,” says Alexei Levinson, the lead researcher of the Levada Center. “If there are hopes, they are meaningless, not so different from despair…
Putin’s public image is transforming into that of a warlord. That’s his major political asset at home, the new pillar of his popularity, and that’s how his countrymen increasingly expect him to act and react on the global scene. __ Mikhail Fishman in The Moscow Times
All hope is gone. 41% of Russians have too little to spend on food and clothing — often a fatal failing in Russia’s long, dark, frigid winters. But there is just enough to scrape together for cheap moonshine. That is the one indispensable item for human consumption that Russians cannot do without.
Putin is extremely good at tactical moves, but fails in strategy.
…Investment continues to decline, both industrial and in residential construction. Private consumption declines as well, while Russian people say they are cutting their purchases of goods and services to survive. __ Sergey Aleksashenko in The Moscow Times
Putin Behaving More Erratically; Becoming Suspicious and Isolated Like Stalin
Putin has been purging Russia’s hierarchy — even to the level of his own inner circle of power.
“Putin, who is known for his loyalty to longtime associates, has left some of his friends vulnerable to attack. This is a new stage of Putin’s rule,” political commentator Leonid Bershidsky wrote in Bloomberg…
You can call it another day of the long knives. You can call it Kremlin musical chairs. Or you can call it Vladimir Putin’s own personal game of thrones.
But by whatever name, Vladimir Putin’s dismissal of his powerful chief of staff and longtime confidant Sergei Ivanov did not happen in isolation.
Combined with last month’s mass shake-up of regional and federal elites — which saw four regional governors, four federal district chiefs, and a disgraced customs boss replaced — it illustrates that these are far from normal times for Russia’s ruling elite.
… Putin is effectively abandoning an elite personnel policy resembling Leonid Brezhnev’s “stability of cadres” approach and toward one reminiscent of Josef Stalin’s — minus, of course, the mass executions of ousted officials. __ RFERL
Well, we have not seen mass executions — yet. But Putin is approaching the years when Russian men typically decline, physically and mentally. His behaviours have become increasingly erratic and counterproductive to his stated aims. It is becoming more difficult to claim that Putin is in full possession of his faculties with every decision.
Putin’s ginned up “crisis in Crimea” is a perfect example of Putin’s potentially catastrophic decision making. What is looking more and more like an “own goal” with Russians killing Russians, is being portrayed by Putin as an act of war by Ukrainian intelligence troops against the “sovereign Russian territory of Crimea.”
Why is Putin putting on this big show? Some speculation:
Putin’s political party, United Russia, faces elections in September amid increasing discontent in both Crimea and Russia over a deteriorating economy, which has seen the ruble lose half its value against the dollar. Opposition parties might be hopelessly divided, but public unhappiness over the economy could nonetheless erode support for the ruling party. Claims that Russian forces are under attack can be used to rally Russians around the president’s political team.
Additionally, Russia is in the midst of a major military expansion. Its forces are engaged in combat in Syria and Ukraine and are present in Moldova’s breakaway Transnistria enclave, as well as in North Ossetia and Abkhazia (as self-declared “peacekeepers”). Vast investments in military power could come under pressure as Russians are told they will have to tighten their belts. A dangerous new threat in Crimea can be used to justify sacrifice in the name of greater preparedness. __ More at source
It is easy to see the tactician Putin flailing for advantage, as the economy of Russia declines and the people of Russia feel more pain, suffering, and deprivation while Russia’s elites continue living a Marie Antoinette lifestyle.
The central city of Moscow has enjoyed an expensive new facelift in preparation for the coming September elections. This is certain to impress Muscovites wealthy enough to frequent this sink of Russia’s diminishing wealth, and no doubt looks good on state and propaganda television. But the underlying reality of national decline cannot be obscured by glitz and glamour in selected sectors of Moscow.
In the Real Russia, People are Once Again Stealing Power Lines for Copper
In other news from Russia:
xHow Bad is the Russian Economy? Russians Again Stealing Power Lines. In the 1990s, some Russians stole power lines to earn money for food. Now that practice is back (znak.com/2016-08-05/v_podmoskove_ukrali_4_kilometra_kabelya_specsvyazi_fso). Other economic news is equally bleak: Russia is exporting 45 percent less electric power than a year ago (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=57A4D78F10595), trade with China in which Putin has placed such hopes continues to fall (svpressa.ru/economy/article/153976/), migrants are bringing more money to the Russian budget than are oil and gas revenues (polit.ru/article/2016/08/08/budget/), Russia pumping more oil even though prices have fallen – just as Soviets did in 1987 (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=57A8CEEDAA0DC), Moscow can find only 16 percent of money needed to prevent disaster in company towns (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=57A83921CC8CC), foreigners are pulling money out of Russian stock funds at an unprecedented rate (rufabula.com/news/2016/08/08/outflow), the North Caucasus has sunk into an economic depression (kavpolit.com/articles/karachaevo_cherkesija_kak_zerkalo_obschekavkazskog-27469/), and sales of apartments in new Moscow highrises have stopped because there is no money and no demand (vedomosti.ru/realty/articles/2016/08/10/652407-novostroiki-prodayutsya).
Note: For those who cannot read Russian, a number of online translators — including Google’s — can provide a fair translation to most of the linked articles above.
Under Putin, Russia has become the new centre of HIV spread and drug-resistant TB. Russians are being forced to trade in hopes of a better future, replacing them with fantasies of Russian greatness. Bootleg moonshine and cheap illegal tobacco set the scenes for the enjoyment of state propaganda television fairy tales. Drug addiction, alcoholism, and suicide provide escape for those who no longer believe the feces they are being fed by Kremlin spokesmen. Quality of food and water are in decline, critical infrastructures of all kinds are crumbling, and too many of the people can no longer afford to buy the low quality goods that are available. Beneath it all, the demographics of ethnic Russians continue in slow motion collapse. Thanks a lot, Putin.
Where Putin is at his best:
Putin is a proven master at manipulating emergencies — real or imagined — to reach his political ends. Starting from his very first days in power, he has been using the threat of terrorism and broadly defined extremism to re-centralize Russia’s political system. For 16 years he has been able to keep the country in a near-constant state of alarm. __ http://www.kennan-russiafile.org/2016/08/12/its-the-security-stupid/
The fear factor of Putin’s rule is palpable from Moscow to London to Toronto.
George Friedman adds his perspective:
The Russian economy has declined precipitously and is still declining. This has to be hurting President Vladimir Putin’s political position, especially among senior officials and oligarchs who constitute the Russian elite. Putin has been increasing his power lately, replacing some governors with his former bodyguards. But actions like that don’t make him appear powerful to us. On the contrary, it makes us think that he is extremely worried and trying to shore up his position.
… The Russians have fought all their wars from Napoleon on with an economy in shambles. It is their normal condition.
History shows us that Russia has never been a great power, other than when it stole, borrowed, or was given technology by the west. A realistic appraisal of today’s Russia reveals a still-pathetic nation in decline, with growing problems that have become impossible to solve — thanks to a myopic leadership that looks at a dying bear and sees a great global empire.
Venezuela — the new Russian future? The gulags are calling.
“Putin is purging old friends and replacing them with servants,” Kremlin-connected analyst Stanislav Belkovsky told fontanka.ru. “These people reminded [Putin] of a time before he was a boss, let alone President … Now he needs executors, not advisers.” In other words, Putin is removing anybody capable of standing up to him.
… Putin is also fighting hard to remove crippling economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and the EU in the wake of the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 by a surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia to Ukrainian rebels in July 2014.
… Whatever is happening at the Kremlin, the Curse of August has brought about one thing at least: A sense of late-summer peril.
Fear, menace, peril, hardship. Days of decline, days of Putin.