EDITORIAL: Once Again, a Swing and a Miss for Vladimir Putin

EDITORIAL

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.

Putin seemed to be having a bit of success, right up until the time the U.S. data made Russia suddenly and totally irrelevant.  It became instantly clear which direction world markets will march in when U.S. indictors point one way and Russian indictors the other.  Once again, Putin was humiliated, and reduced to muttering the same crazy gibberish he spewed out during the Georgia war:  Ukraine is run by criminals and the Western press is telling lies about poor innocent Russia.

The litany of failure experienced by Putin in the last quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of the new year is truly breathtaking.  From his disastrous invasion of Georgia to his irresponsible attack on the Mechel steel firm to his reckless provocation of cold war with the U.S. to his pathetic attempt to destabilize world energy markets, Putin has driven his ship of state onto the rocks, and now it is foundering.  Totally unable to perceive reality as he sits in the Kremlin surrounded by sycophants, just like Stalin, having liquidated all of Russia’s real sources of information and dissent, Putin blunders about like a bull in a china shop, leaving the future of the Russian people in ruins.

But it’s hard indeed to feel sorry for them.  Unlike Stalin, Putin is not a ruler who has been arbitarily forced down their throats. The people of Russia have actively participated in bringing him to power, even though he was the nominee of a man they claimed to despise (Boris Yeltsin, who had single-digit approval ratings when he named Putin as his successor).

Many have praised Russia for not spending its oil windfall cash reserves, so that it had an emergency fund to fall back on when the current economic crisis set in.  Yet, Putin has not conducted his foreign policy as if it were possible that such a downturn could occur, but instead has burned Russia’s bridges with the world at an alarming rate — seeming to believe that Russia would never need a friend and could go it alone indefinitely, totally inconsistent with Russia’s reserves policy.

And meanwhile, the people of Russia have been languishing in poverty.  Their oil windfall could have been used to improve medical care and get Russia into the world’s top 100 nations for male adult lifespan. It could have been used to reduce Russia’s shockingly high rate of fatalities in fire and automobile disasters, its soaring AIDS infection rate and its massive pollution problems. It could have been used to create jobs and raise wages from their third-world levels, and to build a truly diversified economy that would not depend on crude oil prices and therefore would not need to be buffered against them by maintaining gigantic reserves.

But Putin didn’t do any of that. Instead, he chose to spend Russia’s available cash on nuclear weapons programs, aid to American enemies like Iran and Venezuela, and a massive anti-American propaganda campaign.  Not once did he stop to consider the absolutely crucial affect of American consumer demand on the Russian economy, making America the equivalent of Russia’s golden goose.

And in so doing, Vladimir Putin has ruined his nation.  He has brought Russia to the edge of an abyss, friendless and impoverished, and he is now (as we report below) laying the groundwork to finalize his role as the new Stalin, ruling not by wisdom but by brute force.  We condemn Putin for his outrageous behavior, but in the end Putin is a lifelong KGB agent who simply doesn’t know any other way to behave — so the real culprits are the people of Russia, and we condemn them even more than Putin.  They have betrayed their children, allowing their nation to drift back into the horrifying darkness from which they had only just emerged (far more through good luck than any actual struggle for freedom on their part).

History will judge them harshly for this misconduct.

10 responses to “EDITORIAL: Once Again, a Swing and a Miss for Vladimir Putin

  1. Russia with no friends? Come on, they have Iran, Venezuela, North Korea and Cuba. And don’t forget that power house Nicaragua. Now their ready to take on the world!

  2. Point of interest here maybe: Hungary, which is also almost wholly dependant on Russian gas has agreed to sell 1-2 million cubic metres of gas to neighbouring Serbia. Source1: http://uk.reuters.com/article/oilRpt/idUKBSB00162920090108 Source2: http://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics-article.php?yyyy=2009&mm=01&dd=08&nav_id=56283 Source3: http://www.easybourse.com/bourse-actualite/marches/hungary-will-sell-gas-to-hard-hit-serbia-prime-minister-592900

    Now, Hungary is not giving enough – only about 25% of what Serbia needs daily BUT, they are doing so in a situation where they don’t have anything coming in either AND they are doing so and I quote (from source3): “”The price of the gas is around the same as what Hungary pays for it,” he [Hungarian PM] said.” AND they will continue giving as much as they can for as long as they can. Probably one of the motivators here is that the region in Serbia that is hit hardest is in the North, where the second nationality in size after Serbs is Hungarians. So in a way they are helping their own, but in doing so they’re also offering help for the country overall.

  3. Цены на нефть марки WTI по итогам закрытия торгов на Нью-Йоркской товарной бирже в среду упали на 12 процентов, что стало рекордным падением в процентном отношении за один день торгов с 2001 года,
    http://grani.ru/Economy/m.146163.html

  4. It is sad really. Russia was moving in the right direction.

    The west helped Russia through its last financial collapse, especially the US. But with the current group of leaders in power, I do not think the US will be so generous. I think it is ready to put every effort into seeking NATO membership for Georgia, the Ukraine, Poland and perhaps any nation in that region that wants it, and into cementing all types of trade, finance, and military agreements with the same.

    The US was too kind last time around.

    After the gas fiasco, Europe might go along.

    Regards,
    Gary Marshall

  5. Good points Garry.

    It really does show the state of the Russian mind that all we here from Russians is “you humiliated us” or that westerners are wanting to “steal all of Russia’s resources” etc.

    They never mention the huge amount of western financial aid during the 90’s including the writing off of Soviet era debt etc.

    As usual they just act like spoilt little brats and start trying to bash the neigbours.

    All I can say is if they are so ungrateful, next time they go down we should make sure they stay down until such time as they are no longer a threat to other former soviet republics, eastern europe, and the world in general.

  6. Ahhh… Poland is already in NATO…

  7. Business as usual in the EU – The Western European nations – lazy and arrogant as ever – can’t even manage to adopt a common energy yet policy, and consequently the Eastern Europeans get screwed again…

  8. There is a program on the Travel Channel hosted by Anthony Bourdain. Recently, he went to roosha, where he sampled the food, went to a nice village where there was a Russian artist, sampled the food, had a horrible massage, and went to – maskva.

    There, he met up with Miss Russia, they went to a clothing store, connected to a – car dealership.

    He looked at a pair of shoes – $3,000!

    His comment? “You could travel all the way to Italy and back, and buy shoes, and still spend less money that this.”

    The car dealership? Very expensive cars, over $100,000.

    Where did all the money go? Into the hands of a few oligarchs, including Putin.

    Abramovich bought 3 yachts, and the Chelsea Football Club. Berezovsky fled to Londongrad with several billion dollars, and a Gulfstream. Mayor of Maskva Luzhkov has a mansion well over $50 million – in LONDON.

    Medical care, shmedical care – let the people in roosha die.

    Putin is too busy having a good time with his young little honey-on-the-side, and invading Georgia –

    and spending LOTS of money on PUBLIC RELATIONS firms.

  9. Russia gets a Bronze Medal for 3rd Highest Suicide rate.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate

    This is the legacy Putin is building.

    Belarus is in 2nd.

    Lithuania is number 1. That may be an anomaly because the population is 1/44th that of Russia. 3.3 million people. Second, Lithuania’s neighbors are Belarus and Russia. Ow!
    3rd, we don’t know the break down percentage of Lithuanians to Ethnic Russians committing suicide. I suspect the Ethnic Russians are higher percentage.

    The point is not to cheer suicide rates. This is an awful stat. The point is to show that Putin has not done a damn thing to improve the lives of his people.

    The best thing he could do would be to get himself and his government of his citizens’ way. I know the concept of freedom is a tough one. Getting big government out of the way is a real challenge. No one wants to to give up control and power. (It is interesting that the largest nanny states have the highest rates of Suicide, Sweden, Norway, Finland. Even the happiest nation in the world judged by the leftist, Denmark, all have higher suicide rates than the US.)

    If Putin wants Russia to be a superpower, a real superpower (economic and militarily, you have to have a free society built on a democratic foundation. You have to have a functioning justice system that is deem equitable and just by its citizens. These will create a country that will be a good neighbor to your fellow nations. That is never going to happen as long as P and M are in power.

  10. If Russia seriously wanted to address its suicide rate, all it would have to do is end conscription and prosecute all abuses of power in the armed forces. That it isn’t interested in either speaks volumes of the Russian government’s contempt for its own people. More the pity, much of the Narod neither wants nor deserves better leadership.

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