FRIDAY MAY 1 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Chechnya Explodes
(2) EDITORIAL: Sberbank Vanishes
(3) Exposing the Fraud of Putinomics
(4) Putin Gives Russia Environmental Nightmares
(5) Putin is a Pathetic Loser
NOTE: Today we deliver a little love letter to Vladimir Putin, dousing him with a tsunami of facts showing how he has failed on every conveivable policy front, from foreign policy to the environment. The people of Russia have chosen to be governed by proud and totally unqualified KGB spy. This failure is the predictable result of that decision.
On April 16th, Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin announced the end of “counter-terrorist operations” in Chechnya. In other words: Mission accomplished!
Oops. On April 24th, it reinstated them.
We never cease to be amazed by Russia’s seemingly inexhaustible capacity to surprise us with and ever-expanding univere of horrifying bad news.
Earlier this week, Sberbank released its financial results for the fourth quarter of 2008. Why it took a bank until the second quarter of 2009 to do so is beyond us. Perhaps it is because we lack the requisite level of financial sophistication.
The results the bank revealed — and remember, this institution is owned and operated by the Russian government, it’s the embodiment of the nation’s financial relationship with its citizens — were truly stunning. Its earnings fell 80% — you read that right, eighty percent — dropping to an utterly puny and pathetic $224 million. This happened even though revenues were up significantly owing to massive losses in the bank’s investment portfolio.
And, believe it or not, that’s far from from the worst of it.
Writing in the Russian newspaper Vedemosti and translated into English by the Moscow Times Vladimir Mau, Dean of the Russian Academy of National Economy and a high-ranking Kremlin financial advisor, exposes the truly catastrophic failure of Vladimir Putin’s economic policies (without, of course, explicitly blaming his boss at all):
In the same way that generals prepare by analyzing past wars, economists and politicians prepare by analyzing past economic crises. On the whole, this makes sense because we know what happened in the past, and we can analyze only what is known. Despite this preparation and analysis, nations continue to repeat the same blunders and have been hit repeatedly by the same economic crises over the past 100 years.
During the economic boom years when the price of Russia’s main exports of oil, gas and metals hit unprecedented highs, many economists and politicians occasionally posed the question: What will happen when this boom turns into a bust? It was clear that it would have a disastrous effect on the federal budget. But it was not perceived as being potentially fatal to the country’s economic growth because there is a natural flip side to a crash in natural resources’ prices — a drop in the ruble, which would in turn lead to increased competitiveness for goods produced domestically and for import substitution. To put it another way, everyone was expecting a repeat of Russia’s quick economic rebound from 1999 to 2001 after the 1998 default and ruble devaluation. The problem with this analogy is that this crisis is much different from the 1998 crisis for four main reasons.
Pesticides still poison people in the ex-Soviet Union almost two decades after the fall of the Communist superpower when farm managers liberally sprayed chemicals over fields, an environmentalist said in an interview.
Olga Speranskaya — who won an international award last week for her push to clean up the Soviet Union’s toxic legacy — also said the global economic crisis had diverted cash from cleaning up chemical waste, including from Soviet-era factories. “There is a lot of concern about toxic contamination. It’s getting worse and especially because of this financial crisis,” she told Reuters by telephone. “Our governments show a lack of political will to tackle chemical contamination and now they have one more excuse because of the financial crisis.”
Russia’s ecology ministry declined to comment.
Former parliamentarian Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing the Moscow Times, exposes the “fundamental failure” of the Putin regime:
The recent annual meeting of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, a Moscow-based think tank, underscored the confusion and distress among leading Russian politicians, analysts and policymakers. The meeting was dedicated to discussing the results of these last two decades. If in recent years they were all caught up in a frenzy of patriotism, muscle-flexing and shouts of “Russia is rising from its knees!” this spring has marked a clear shift in mood. Now they are much more sober and reflective. The economic crisis and Russia’s continuing foreign policy failures have hit them like one big cold shower.