Daily Archives: February 3, 2009

February 6, 2009 — Contents

FRIDAY FEBRUARY 6 CONTENTS

(1)  EDITORIAL:  Russia’s Financial Apocalypse

(2)  EDITORIAL:  The New Chamberlain

(3)  Putin:  No Longer a Leader

(4)  Russia:  No Longer a Nation

(5)  Flying Russia’s Drunken Skies

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EDITORIAL: Financial Apocalypse for Putin’s Russia

The U.S. dollar, soaring mightily against the Russian ruble

The U.S. dollar, soaring mightily against the Russian ruble

EDITORIAL

Financial Apocalypse for Putin’s Russia

Two weeks ago, Russia’s top central banker, Sergei Ignatiyev, boldly declared that after the dramatic devaluation authorized by the Kremlin the U.S. dollar would not rise above 36 rubles in value for the foreseeable future.

On Monday, the dollar crashed through the 36-ruble barrier to close at 36.41.  One Russian ruble is now worth 2.75 American cents.   Six months ago, it was worth 4.15 cents. It has lost one-third of its value since Russia invaded Georgia in a naked act of imperial aggression.

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EDITORIAL: The New Chamberlain

EDITORIAL

The New Chamberlain

Lord Truscott

Lord Truscott

It’s somewhat difficult to imagine what sort of person could be an organizer, MP and energy minister for the British Labor Party for more than a decade and then, when finally rejected at the polls by his own constituents, accept a knighthood from the Queen and enter the House of Lords, thus becoming the very personification of all that he had heretofore been opposing.

But you don’t have to imagine it, you can just look at the photograph of Baron Peter Derek Truscott and see it all in living color.

And you can then open your virtual copy of the Times of London and regale yourself with his exploits having “risen” to the status of Peer of the Realm, and the Daily Mail‘s revolting picture of his secret Soviet past. The Times has discovered that any number of lords have been selling themselves to the highest bidder and that “Lord Truscott, one of those named in the lords for hire scandal, met the energy minister, allegedly without declaring that he was being paid by a lobbying firm that had among its clients Russia’s state-owned gas giant Gazprom.”

And so, of course, it all comes back to Russia.

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Putin: No Longer a Leader

Andrei Kortunov, president of the New Eurasia Foundation in Moscow, writing in the Moscow Times:

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s speech Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos was noteworthy for two reasons. First, it did not contain the inflammatory anti-Western rhetoric that we have grown accustomed to hearing from Putin in past years. Second, it might have been the first time we heard a clear admission that Russia is no longer capable of being a “island of stability” in a global economic crisis.

Putin’s critics would probably say that his proposals for managing the global crisis are too ambiguous. The more spiteful critics would point out that a country that has been denied membership in the World Trade Organization for the last decade and that is not even a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development could hardly be taken seriously when its prime minister delivers a lecture on how the world’s economy should be structured.

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Russia: No Longer a Nation

Russian economist Alexei Bayer, writing in the Moscow Times:

With the rest of the world worried about the economic crisis, the news of yet another politically tinged crime in Moscow gets little more than a shrug. It draws the same response in Russia, even though the killing of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova last month provided a glimpse into a murky, Byzantine abyss lying just beyond the country’s facade. It’s a frightening sight in normal times but especially so in a worsening economic climate.

The crimes themselves — and the usual ho-hum reaction to them — testify to the absence of even a rudimentary civil society. Russia is a country of inhabitants, not citizens. Citizens have a stake in their political entity, and murders like these target the very foundations of a nation. This is an occasion on which citizens of all political persuasions would have found a way to make their voices heard. Instead, Russia’s inhabitants go down into the streets to protest higher duties on foreign cars.

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Fly Russia’s Drunken Skies?

Think about this next time you consider getting on a plane piloted by Russians, if you are ever foolish enough to do so. The Moscow Times reports:

When passengers on Aeroflot Flight 315 heard the pilot make his preflight announcement, they knew something was amiss. The pilot’s voice was garbled, barely intelligible — and that was in his native Russian. When he switched to English, it was impossible to understand him at all. “The first thought that occurred to me was, ‘This guy is drunk,'” said Khatuna Kobiashvili, a passenger on the Moscow-New York flight. “His speech was so slurred it was hard to tell what language he was speaking.”

As passengers, including a Moscow Times reporter, related their concerns to the flight crew, they were told to “stop making trouble” or get off the Boeing 767 jet. A passenger who called Aeroflot’s head office received a similar rebuff. “They told me that it was impossible for a pilot to be drunk and hung up the phone,” said the passenger, Tatyana Vorontsova.

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