SUNDAY JANUARY 11 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: We’re Lovin’ It
(2) EDITORIAL: Another Swing & Miss for Putin
(3) Putin’s Deguello
(4) Another Blunder from Vladimir Putin
(5) The Crackdown on Radio Free Europe
(6) Annals of the Neo-Soviet Police State
NOTE: It’s wall-to-wall failure from Vladimir Putin these days, and posts 1-4 lay out the horror in minute detail. No matter where you turn, you see the polices of Putin leading his nation to rack and ruin. Will the benighted citizens of Putin Nation ever wake up and smell the fake vodka?
We’re Lovin’ It
Given the rabid anti-American rhetoric that seems to issue from every corner of Vladimir Putin’s KGB-dominated Russia, starting with the “prime minister’s” own lips, it must come as a surprise to many in Russia to learn that McDonald’s restaurants opened twice as many new eateries in Russia in 2008 as they did in 2007, and now have 233 locations throughout the country. The chain is doing so well that it plans to spend a whopping half million dollars on refurbishing each of the existing locations as it ratchets up expansion further, despite the economic crisis that has brought the rest of the country to its knees.
Apparently, though strapped for cash Russians have no intention of giving up their Big Macskis, and will trim their budgets in other areas so they can satisfy their Big Mack Attackskis whenever they may strike. On another front, Russians have risen up to aggressively protest the Putin regime’s efforts to restrict the import of foreign-made automobiles in order to protect Russia’s inferior quality domestic brands. So much for the Russians’ hatred of America, their love of all things Russian!
Once Again, a Swing and a Miss for Vladimir Putin
“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men gang aft agley.”
— Robert Burns, “To a Mouse, on Turning her up in her Nest with the Plough,” 1785
Last Wednesday, crude oil prices experienced their largest one-day drop in more than seven years, plunging a breathtaking 12% as new data revealed that U.S. facilities were developing massive stockpiles of “black gold” that nobody was interested in buying. Reuters reported: “Crude oil stocks in the world’s largest consumer nation swelled by 6.7 million barrels, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said, more than seven times the 900,000-barrel increase analysts had expected.” Streetwise Professor has more on the price collapse. That was Putin’s third strike.
As we reported on Wednesday, Vladimir Putin was simultaneously and feverishly engaged in an outrageous effort to panic world gas markets and drive up the price of natural gas so as to squeeze out a bit of revenue before gas prices drop just as precipitously as oil prices, which they always do following a pattern of a six-month lag. Putin’s scheme was to switch off the taps to Ukraine, causing European supplies to dry up and provoking panicked buying. Already, he has been forced to back down from his barbaric behavior (strike one), which totally failed to produce the desired result and drove Europe into the waiting arms of the United States (strike two) and further blackened Russia’s already ruined international reputation.
Three strikes and you’re out, Mr. Putin.
Streetwise Professor reports on Vladimir Putin’s “deguello*”:
The island of stability theme is now longer operative. According to Interfax,
Russia more vulnerable to world crisis because of integration – Putin
MOSCOW. Dec 29 (Interfax) – The global financial crisis’ effect on the Russian economy is rather substantial because Russia has become an integral part of the world economy, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said at the Monday meeting of the federal government.
“Since the late 1990s we had been seeking integration with the world economy. Our integration wish came true. As people say, we slit our own throat,” he said.
Is this a self-reproach? Hard to tell. But since (a) Putin has been in charge of the integration policy since its initiation in the late-1990s, and (b) he blames integration for his country’s current difficulties, that seems a reasonable conclusion.
I must say, however, that his diagnosis is largely misguided. Even in the days of its alleged autarky, the USSR was integrated with the world economy–through the commodity markets, most notably the oil market (as a seller) and the grain market (as a buyer). In its later days, the USSR also borrowed extensively on the international credit markets. Indeed, the collapse of the USSR was hastened–and arguably caused–by a collapse in the price of oil that deprived it of the export revenues necessary service its debts and to buy grain to feed the populace.
An editorial in the Globe & Mail:
Neither party is innocent in the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine that is currently gripping Europe, but the former deserves most of the blame for a debacle that may leave millions without heat during a brutal cold snap.
Yesterday, utilities in half a dozen European countries reported complete halts to deliveries of Russian gas due to Moscow’s week-old cut-off of supplies to Ukraine over a pricing disagreement. Almost all of the gas imported from Russia by members of the European Union travels through Ukraine, which buys a portion of the flow.
In its dealings with the Ukrainian government since the 2005 Orange Revolution, Russia’s state-owned natural-gas monopoly, OAO Gazprom, has consistently behaved in bad faith and richly earned its reputation as a blunt tool of Kremlin foreign policy. The current situation is no different.
Aleksandr Kolesnichenko, a reporter for the Russian newspaper Novye Izvestiya, writing on Transitions Online:
Last year, investigators in the Siberian city of Tomsk accused Viktor Zima of having made “large-scale” profits through illegal business activity and regulatory violations. The charge carried up to five years in prison.
His offense? Investigators said TV-1, a broadcaster of which Zima is director general, had received 6 million rubles ($205,000) for transmitting Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty programming from 2004 to 2007. TV-1’s license allegedly did not authorize the company to transmit the U.S.-funded RFE/RL. The broadcaster was stripped of its frequency in May.
Zima said he would not try to get it back and would instead quit the broadcasting business. “I’m not interested in broadcasting popular songs, but they won’t let me do serious things,” he said.
Radio Free Europe reports:
Aleksandr Podrabinek knows a creeping police state when he sees one.
As a Soviet-era dissident he was a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group human rights organization, editor of the samizdat journal “The Chronicle of Current Events,” and the author of a 1977 book, “Punitive Medicine,” that chronicled the abuses of the psychiatric profession against political prisoners. He was exiled to Siberia for criticizing the Soviet authorities in the 1970s and sent to a labor camp in the 1980s for distributing forbidden literature.
In a recent two-part series of articles published in the online magazine “Yezhednevnyi zhurnal,” Podrabinek connects the dots and argues that the soft-authoritarian regime established by Vladimir Putin over the past decade is about to be transformed into something much harsher.