SUNDAY NOVEMBER 23 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: The Russian Financial Well, Running Dry
(2) Latynina on a Fool Called Medvedev
(3) Kozlovsky on SPS
(4) The Dangerous Miscalculation of Vladimir Putin
(5) The Russian Army, Fading Away
(6) Annals of Russian Sports Humiliation
NOTE: Once again the Kremlin is barraged with horrifically bad PR, this time over Svetlana Bakhmina. Major stories sympathetic to her and hostile to the Krmelin have appeared everywhere from ABC News to the New York Times to Women on the Web and Masha Lipman has a scathing op-ed in the Washington Post while Cathy Young has one in the Boston Globe. Just as in the Georgia invasion, Russia is helplessly exposed as a barbaric banana republic, incapable of civlized behavior or even basic human decency. The Russian people yearn for prestige and respect abroad, but their KGB regime gives them only disgrace and humiliation. Nice job there, Mr. Putin. Keep up the good work!
The Russian Financial Well, Running Dry
It takes some doing to keep up with the financial meltdown that has been wrought in Russia by the misguided policies of the nation’s dictator, Vladimir Putin.
At the end of the week, Reuters reported that the Putin regime had squandered a breathtaking $58 billion in September and October alone defending the value of the Russian ruble. Another $14 billion had been washed down the rathole of the regime’s efforts to bail out its corrupt and decrepit banking system, bringing the total to a stunning $72 billion before even considering the vast undisclosed amounts being spent to prop up the crippled stock market, or the unknown expenditures that have already occurred in November. $72 billion is roughly 15% of Russia’s total foreign exchange reserve fund, meaning that another year of this kind of spending would wipe out the fund entirely, assuming nothing was spent either on the stock market or economic growth and nothing was needed to compensate for budgetary deficits. None of those assumptions are remotely valid. Russia is on the fast track to bankruptcy, just like the USSR faced not long ago.
According to Reuters: “Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told the parliament Russia has spent 90 billion roubles ($3.28 billion) on domestic stock and bond purchases so far this year out of the planned 250 billion roubles. ‘As of today, 18 percent of the national wealth fund has been placed on the local market,’ Kudrin said.”
Even “President” Dima Medvedev admitted that things were getting ugly. He stated: “Today, it is clear that the crisis is spreading, unfortunately from the financial sector into the sectors of the real economy. Every industry is affected in its own way. It is impossible to say that one among them is sitting pretty and will not get state money.” So much for the insane Russophile canard that the stock market does not affect real Russians! The old Russian problem of unpaid wages is again front and center, with a 33% increase in arrearages in the month of October.
And then there was the stock market. These days, its exploits read like a cheap dimestore novel than the records of a major bourse.
Hero journalist Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times:
We all learned from the Russian media how President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Washington for the Group of 20 summit and offered his ideas on how to build a new global financial system.
What the media did not report, however, is that Russia has been essentially evicted from the G8. After Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promised to “send a doctor” to Mechel and sent tanks into Georgia, the West, for all intents and purposes, reached a consensus that Russia has no place in the elite club of developed, wealthy and democratic nations.
Although Russia was “expelled” from the G8 for its poor performance, it was invited to attend the larger G20. What would a bad student probably do after being expelled from school for poor grades? He would probably stand up with his tail between his legs, promise to work harder on his homework and try to raise his grades. But what did Medvedev, the failing student, say in Washington? “I have an idea of how we can restructure the principle’s key job functions.”
Oleg Kozlovsky, writing on Robert Amsterdam’s blog:
On 15 November, Union of Right Forces (SPS), one of the two remaining democratic parties in Russia, was liquidated by its own members at an extraordinary convention in Moscow suburbs. This was, as openly admitted, a deal between the party’s leadership and the Kremlin. Some of the former SPS members will now join a new puppet party Right Deed (Pravoe Delo) while dissenters will participate in creation of Solidarity opposition movement.
The blog Cicero’s Songs gives us chapter and verse exposing “The Disastrous Miscalculation of Vladimir Putin.”
As I have warned over the past few months, Russia is being particularly badly hit by the global financial crisis. Partly this is a function of the severity of the collapse of commodity prices, especially oil and gas, which has had an exceptionally serious impact on a country where 85% of GDP relies on the extraction of raw materials. However the scale of the crisis in Russia has been hugely increased by a number of massive miscalculations by the Silovik state. Now the speed and scale of the Russian meltdown could conceivably become a threat to the stability of the Silovik regime itself.
Defense expert Alexander Golts, writing in the Moscow Times:
Every year, the Defense Ministry holds one of its most important conferences. At this annual event, in which all the generals are present and the president gives the key address, we usually learn details about new military reforms and weapons programs.
This year’s meeting, which took place on Nov. 11, was unlike any of the previous ones. First, President Dmitry Medvedev did not attend. Second, there was conspicuously little information released from the meeting. The only thing we know from a short, terse document that the Defense Ministry released after the meeting is that the number of officers will be reduced from 355,000 to 150,000 and the number of military educational institutions will be cut by 80 percent. In addition, the ministry announced that the elite Tamanskaya and Kantemirovskaya divisions as well as the 98th and 106th Airborne Divisions are scheduled to be disbanded in 2009.
Irina Krushes Russia
What’s more humiliating for Russia than to lose to America in a sports competition?
How about losing to America in chess, which some might say is Russia’s national sport?
Could anything be worse than that?
Surprisingly, yes. Getting blown out by America 3-1.
What if the American team included Irina Krush, a former Ukrainian, and Anna Zatonskih, another Ukrainian.
Ouch. It doesn’t get much more brutal than that.