The Ruble as Rubble
The US dollar, soaring against the ruble
On Monday the MICEX ruble-denominated Russian stock index took another massive hit, losing over 7% of its value and crashing through the 600-point psychological barrier. The Russian ruble continued its slide against the dollar, having lost nearly 2% of its value against the U.S. currency last week, more than 2% against the euro, the biggest one-week drop in more than three years, as the government squandered over $3.5 billion in FOREX money to keep it from entering freefall — but, quite possibly, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. Because of continuing downward pressure on oil prices that is expected next year, Russian investment bank Troika Dialogue predicts that the ruble will have to fall at least an additional 30% as Russia’s current account and FOREX surpluses otherwise risk total obliteration. Other analysts predicted a horrifying 50% drop in value. Remember, even with a stable ruble Russia already has double-digit consumer price inflation. Both stock exchanges, the MICEX and the RTS, are flirting with another horrifying freefall period as the price of Russia’s “Urals blend” crude oil traded below $50/barrel for four days running. The Kremlin needed $70 just to break even next year!
His so-called “Life” in Putin’s Russia
Dmitri Minaev earns just a little more than the average Russian wage, taking in $5/hour, $800 per month, as a systems adminstrator in Samara. He blogs in his spare time on Russian history at De Rebus Antiquis Et Novis, which appears on our blogroll.
Minaev is also a thief, proudly so in fact.
Writing on Pajamas Media Soeren Kern,a Senior Analyst for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group, explains how Russia is seeking to weaponize its energy assets to undermine European security:
A leaked intelligence document issued by Spain’s CNI spy agency in October warns that Russia is aggressively pursuing a plan to “monopolize access to energy supplies to Europe.” The report validates what many analysts have been saying for a long time, namely that Moscow is using Russian energy companies to gain geo-strategic control over northern, central and southern Europe.
Now Russia’s largest independent oil company, Lukoil, is negotiating the purchase of a 30 percent stake in Repsol YPF SA, Spain’s largest oil company. The deal, which is valued at 5 billion euros ($6.5 billion), calls for Lukoil to buy a 20 percent stake in Repsol from Sacyr Vallehermoso SA, a debt-laden Spanish construction company, and another 10 percent stake from La Caixa, a Catalan savings bank. Lukoil is now seeking financing in order to close the deal.
Russian military expert Reuben F. Johnson, writing in the Weekly Standard:
In 1976, when Soviet fighter pilot Viktor Belenko defected to the West in his MiG-25, his U.S. debriefers discovered (along with a trove of Soviet secrets) a military man with a life’s accumulation of grievances against the Soviet system. Even at the height of Moscow’s power, Belenko told them, the political leadership could not properly provide for its soldiers, sailors, and airmen, who often lived in squalid conditions with almost no means of entertainment or diversion.
The central obsession of the higher-ranking officers at the aerodrome where he was based was inventing ways to steal the highly purified grain alcohol that was used for cooling the MiG-25’s avionics and deicing the wings. This often required that several tons of jet fuel be dumped on the ground and a nonexistent flight of the MiG-25 entered into the logbook in order to make it seem as though the alcohol had been consumed in service of the aircraft rather than at some drunken late-night dinner. A senseless waste, as he saw it, to soak hundreds of gallons of fuel into the soil and then later say there was not enough funding for proper base housing or an officers’ club.
But the main source of Belenko’s alienation was what he described as the Communist party’s penchant for “trying to repeal the laws of nature by decree.” In the case of his MiG‑25, this translated into the impossible task of being ready to take on the latest U.S. military aircraft in an airplane that still used vacuum-tube technology.
One wonders if there is a similar divorce from reality inside the Kremlin today with regard to the Russian armed forces.
The lastest barbaric idiocy from the Russians is a contention that genocidal maniac Josef Stalin is no different for the them than Napoleon is for the French. Did we miss something? Did Napoleon build gulags and wipe out a huge segment of the French population? Are Russians proud of the fact that Stalin’s Russia, like Napoleon’s France, was totally obliterated? And why is it that the West is “irrelevant” to Russia whenever the West’s good points are at issue, but when Russia’s faults are being discussed suddenly what happens in the West is absolutely crucial? Is this national psychosis? Paul Goble reports:
An Orthodox priest in a town near St. Petersburg has sparked controversy by putting up an icon showing the figure of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, with some believers and Communists viewing this as simple justice and others as an indication that many Russians have lost any sense of proportion or truth. One of the most widely covered stories in the Russian Federation last week concerns not the actions of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin or even the impact of the economic crisis but rather the decision of a priest to put up an icon portraying Stalin and the efforts of some to canonize him. The priest of St. Olga’s Church in Strel’na, Father Yevstafiy, recently put up an icon there to the Blessed Matrona of Moscow, on which Stalin was portrayed, without any of the attributes of sainthood but simply standing next to her. Thus, technically, it was not an icon of Stalin at all.
The New York Times reports yet more bitterly humiliating news for Vladimir Putin’s Russia on the sports front:
The United States’ status in the global chess hierarchy is rising, while Russia’s once dominant position is waning. At the biennial Chess Olympiad, held in Dresden, Germany, this month, Americans took the bronze medals in the open and women’s sections. It was the first time that both teams had medaled at the same Olympiad, and it was only the second medal for the women, who took the silver in 2004. It was the second consecutive bronze for the open team. The last time that the United States captured medals at consecutive Olympiads was 1996 (bronze) and 1998 (silver).
Armenia took the gold in the open section, defending the title it won in 2006.
The Russian team — ranked No. 1, the winner of consecutive gold medals from 1992 through 2002, and the silver medalist in 2004 — did not finish among the top three for the second Olympiad in a row. Just as surprisingly, the Russian women, who had won three silvers and three bronzes at the last six Olympiads, also did not medal.
It was the first time that a Russian or Soviet team did not finish among the top three in either section since 1976, when the Soviets boycotted the Olympiad held in Haifa, Israel.