WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 11 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Mr. Putin’s Kitchen
(2) EDITORIAL: Russia through the Looking Glass
(3) EDITORIAL: Russia and her “Allies”
(4) Stratfor Blasts Putin’s Russia
(5) Putin the Panhandler
(6) MT Blogging Crime
Note: A member of Oleg Kozlovsky’s Oborona opposition organization in St. Petersburg is now blogging in English as is Oleg himself. We report on the Kremlin’s attempt to infiltrate Oborona with spies in our lead editorial. You might consider dropping by one of these blogs to leave a comment in support of these courageous Russian patriots.
Mr. Putin’s Kitchen
Russian GDP in freefall right along with the ruble
The chart above shows how Russian GDP has entered a state of freefall as the country’s financial system has collapsed. The Russia Economy Watch blog states: “If we look at the monthly contraction rate as a reflection of the current quarter on quarter contraction, we find a rate of minus 1.6%, which means that the present rate is something like a 6.5% annualised shrinkage rate.”
It’s getting rather hot in Vladimir Putin’s crooked kitchen. There can be only one response: We must turn up the heat. At long last, we seem to be starting to understand that.
Russia Through the Looking Glass
There are times when things happen in Russia that are so bizarrely inane that they defy the comprehension of normal human beings unschooled in the finer points of Russian “thought.” This is one of those instances.
The Moscow Times reports that a shadowy organization calling itself “Creative Warriors” has installed an ad campaign in the Moscow Metro which, as shown above, depicts cans of “Amerikanskoye Salo” emblazoned with the American flag. The MT describes “salo” as a ” traditional Ukrainian dish of salted pork fat” and explains that CW’s purpose is to unseat Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko by convincing the people of Ukraine that Yushchenko is a puppet of the U.S. and that “American salo is just as impossible as an American Ukraine.” The group stated: “We have been created for a new humanitarian mission and that we should spread throughout the entire world. If the campaign is allowed to be fully conducted on a national scale, Yushchenko simply has no chance to win.”
This idea is wrong on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to begin. Only in Russia can a failure be this pathetic, absolute and spectacular.
Russia and her “Allies”
We confess we were caught slightly off guard by a Reuters headline last weekend which read: “Russia and allies to create joint air defense.”
What have we missed, we wondered? Were we asleep at the switch? Who are these fiersome new allies whose powerful air forces will be contributing to a mighty new security ring over Russian skies?
We weren’t suprised to learn that Russia needed help to protect its skies, of course. RIA Novosti had just reported that 70% of Russia’s famous MiG-29 fighter gets are unable to get off the ground because of woefully inadequate maintenance, and Reuters had reported that one-third of all Russian attack aircraft are unsafe to fly.
But we had no idea that other nations had stepped forward to bolster Russia’s flagging position. Reuters obligingly gave us the list:
George Friedman, founder of the global intelligence firm Stratfor, blasts the long-term total failure that is Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and warns of short-term Russian aggression against Ukraine:
Russian power is in long-term decline. Compared to the Soviet Union in 1989, the Russian Federation has less than half the population, one-third the economic bulk, lower commodity production and vastly decreased industrial output. Demographically, Russia is both shrinking and aging at rates that have not been seen outside of wartime since the time of the Black Death. The educational system has stalled, so Russia is facing an impending slide in labor quantity and quality, which will make it difficult if not outright impossible for Russia to keep up with its advancing neighbors. The long-term prognosis is, at best, very poor.
Dmitri Sidorov, Washington bureau chief of the Kommersant newspaper, writing in Forbes magazine:
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin came to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, it seems, to convince Western creditors to write off a portion of the debts Russian companies owe them. As of October 2008, the cumulative debt totaled $540 billion. The State of Russia owes $42.7 billion, while the private sector carries the rest of the burden. In the fourth quarter of 2008, the State of Russia paid foreign creditors a total of $80 billion, including $61 billion owed by the private sector.
We know that the Kremlin recently drew up a list of strategic enterprises belonging to Russian companies that owe money to Western banks. Stakes in these enterprises either cannot be sold to Western investors or are tightly controlled by Moscow for the lucky few allowed in. The Kremlin based its rescue plan for the Russian economy on this list, which consists primarily of monsters like Gazprom, Rusal, Rosneft and others.
But even if official Russian statistics on the state of the country’s gold and hard currency reserves are accurate–and they came to $386.9 billion as of Feb. 1–if prices for commodities and energy exports remain unchanged and capital flight stays at current levels, by December 2009 this figure could shrink to $150 billion. And don’t forget that over the last six months, Russia’s reserves fell by $210 billion.
What happens next if the crisis goes on a bit longer requires little explanation.
Moscow Times managing editor Carl Schreck has started a blog on the paper’s website called “Crime Watch.” It documents the more sensational aspects of Russian criminal life, including such items as:
- Russian rats chewing on Russian babies in a Russian hospital ward
- Russian “black realtors” who murder to acquire apartments
- Russian cannibals
- Various novel Russian forms of suicide, all involving getting somebody to kill you
- Russian boyfriend pouring gasoline on his Russian girlfriend and her daughter, then setting them both on fire
And then there’s this gem: