Seeing Russia with 30/30 Vision
Imagine that Larry King had interviewed Vladimir Putin on New Year’s Eve one year ago and suggested to him that one year hence the value of the Russian ruble measured in dollars and the price of a barrel of Russian crude oil would be reflected by the same number, and that number would be “30.”
Can you imagine the sort of haughty, condescending smirk that would have been reflected on Putin’s countenance at the foolish American’s idiotic ravings?
Yet as we go to press, both the ruble and the price of Russian oil are closing fast on that very number — and some would say they won’t stop there for long as they plunge even further into the gloom. As we reported earlier this week, the ruble experienced its largest one-day drop in value in recent memory to start the week last Monday, and in the currency markets was less than one ruble from the 30-ruble psychological barrier on Tuesday morning, while Russia’s Urals Blend crude oil was selling for just over $32 per barrel. The ruble is already trading on the streets of Moscow at more than 30 to the dollar.
Responding to this catastrophic collapse, Russian “Prime Minister” Putin recently advised journalists as follows:
Putin also urged team spirit and sought to play down the country’s financial troubles. “Work in difficult conditions shouldn’t cause stagnation or distress or pessimism, but it should raise the adrenaline in one’s blood,” Putin said. “It is a challenge and an opportunity to realize oneself, to prove one’s abilities, efficiency, and professional qualities.” Putin also told journalists not to fan public concern about the country’s sharp economic downturn. “Don’t ratchet up fears or hysteria, there are no grounds for them,” he told reporters after the cabinet meeting.
And when he says “don’t” Putin means that if you do, you’ll be prosecuted. That is what happened to Aleksandr Bragin, the leader of former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov’s Russian Popular Democratic Union Party in the city of Ulyanovsk. After he dared to publish an article on the Party’s website documenting the downturn in the local economy, he was arrested by the Russian Interior Ministry’s department for combating terrorism and extremism. This is just one more incident in a pattern of liquidating reporting negative facts about the Kremlin that we have been documenting for years now.
You read that right: Under Russia’s obscene new “law against extremism” writing a newspaper article setting forth basic facts regarding economic performance constitutes an act of terrorism. Many, including us here on this blog, warned when the law was enacted it would be used in this manner, but many other were slow to realize and oppose the danger. Under an even newer law, a person accused of this “crime” is not entitled to a jury trial. So, just as in Soviet times, this reporter can be railroaded by a star chamber straight to Siberia for daring to inform the public about the future quality of their lives.
This is Putin’s “solution” to the crisis: Conceal it. Deny it. And kill those who do otherwise. It’s the Soviet solution.
To say the least, it’s not going to work any better now than it did then.