Bitter Medicine for Little Volodya Putin
It must have been rather galling for Vladimir Putin to watch the amazing vitality of the U.S. stock market displayed on Thursday, as it recouped the lion’s share of the 500-point loss it sustained the prior day to close the Dow Jones Industrial Average above 11,000. It was the market’s greatest triumph in six years. After all, Russia’s market has been taking similar point-value hits in recent weeks, yet the RTI average has only been worth, at its peak, one fifth the point value of the DJIA, meaning that the percentage impact on the Russian market has been immeasurably greater.
So while the American market kept right on trading even as major American firms like Lehman and Lynch collapsed and AIG teetered on the brink, the Russian market was shut down. It’s been out of action now more a day and a half, with the Russian government apparently feeling that simply ordering folks not to trade is a wonderful way to show the market’s rock-solid stability. And indeed – lo and behold! – with trading banned outright the RJI has not lost a single kopeck! This gives new meaning to the term “Potemkin Village” and echoes back to the very worst days of the USSR. The Kremlin’s next “plan” is to simply spend Russia’s savings to buy stocks and artifically inflate their value, in the hopes of being able to reopen its Potemkin market and continue the ridiculous charade. Meanwhile healthcare, air safety, and countless other crucial national problems will go wholly ignored, just as in Soviet times.
It was not supposed to be like this, of course.
Russia was supposed to be the harbinger of the “new economy” that would dissolve U.S. hegemony by relying on Russia’s vast stores of fossile fuels and their hyper-inflated value. But as Boris Nemstov has shown, in fact Russia is rapidly running out of natural gas because it has to sell so much abroad in order to subsidize the remainder of its economy, which is a total and abject failure. How could it be otherwise, when it is run by a proud KGB spy with no more knowledge of how to build a real market than of how to run a real election.
So now little Volodya Putin is frowning and screaming and bitterly resenting having to swallow so much distasteful reality. How the mighty have fallen! It seems like only yesterday that Putin was strutting and preening and being called “person of the year.” How utterly vacuous and stupid those fawning statements now seem, in the light of Russia’s barbaric military action in Georgia — which totally failed to unseat Georgia’s hated president — and in light of the stock market’s humiliating implosion and the neo-Soviet manner in which Putin has helplessly, impotently responded to it.
His childish bitterness only brings more and more failure, just as in Soviet times. The Kremlin’s actions, documented in our lead editorial, have brough a major escalation of rhetoric from the White House: U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice said that “what has become clear is that the legitimate goal of rebuilding Russia has taken a dark turn with the rollback of personal freedoms, the arbitrary enforcement of the law, the pervasive corruption at various levels of Russian society and the paranoid, aggressive impulse which has manifested itself before in Russian history.” A brutal, scathing condemnation from the lips of a diplomat. She openly threatened Russia with exclusion from the WTO and OECD.
In fact, as readers of this blog know only too well, there is nothing at all recent about Russia’s darkness. We have been documenting it chapter and verse for the better part of three years, and our more than 6,000 posts tell the tale in every sordid aspect. It simply that now Russia’s level of barbarity has become so intense that the rest of the world has finally been forced to recogize what we have been describing for many years.