Monday, January 18, 2016

Russia begins 2016: the Bad and the Ugly; there is no Good

For the citizens of Russia, things are going from bad to worse.  The ruble is down, inflation is rampant and Russia's sanctions against food from EU and now Turkey are seen on grocery shelves and at the cash register.  My wife will be home Monday or Tuesday (or Wednesday? It is storming hard here so roads will be impassible for a while) and I will get the lowdown from her.  She did tell me that a huge sort of big-box supermarket combination that sold everything is only half the size it was, with the other half leased out.

As the price of oil plummets, Russia is having to rejig its budget for 2016 constantly.  Health services, education and social safety nets are already almost totally defunded to keep feeding the military machine. They are about as close to volunteer organizations as you can get

Politically, the Kremlin is clamping down harder and harder on anything that looks like variance from the party line.  Any kind of public protest will land a person in the police station and possibly in prison from 1-5 years.  Or more. Theoretically a one-person picket is legal twice in 6 months.  However the authorities send out a couple of phony pickets to stand close and then bust the lone picketer.

Kadyrov is demanding that ALL dissenters be treated as 'enemies of the people', a good Stalinist phrase and sent to labour camps. Russians will continue to support Stalin because they consider the use of force “the privilege of the state,” will burn books if the authorities give the signal, and even would approve the creation of a new GULAG and the liquidation of its potential inmates. 

Not all Russians subscribe to these horrific views; but enough do, the commentaries suggest, that their attitudes inform and will continue to inform the way in which the Russian state will operate and the situation in which Russians as a people will continue to exist for some time to come.

Since Russians have never been forced to confront their past and deal with it, they still carry the attitudes that they have had since Tsarist times “the sacralization of the state and power” and continue to view the use of force “as a privilege of the authorities to whom has been delegated the responsibility and right to make choices for everyone.”

On the international side, if one accepts the premise of "Russia Watchers", that Putin's goal is to destabilize and destroy the EU, NATO, and the world order changes which occurred since the breakup of the USSR, then at the moment he appears to be winning more than he is losing. In an interview with German paper BILD, Putin said international boundaries were not important to him, just (Russian) people, meaning he wants his empire back

Russia supports extreme Right or Left parties and individual politicians in Europe.  They do not have to be pro-Russia, just anti-EU, though it helps if they are also anti-sanction.  

To know what Russia is doing or will do, it is only necessary to see what they accuse others of doing. When they declare as now that NATO is planning to use the Baltic countries as a base to attack Russia that may in fact constitute the clearest early warning signal that Moscow may be planning to attack them first. The Baltic countries are interested in having NATO forces on their territory because it is “economically profitable.” Indeed, the governments of the three are “exploiting the sharpening of the confrontation between Russia and the West for their own goals.”

His Syrian adventure has two purposes. To keep Assad in power (or possibly replace him with another that supports Russia) and to continue to flood Europe with refugees.  Very few of the Russian bombing runs have been targeted at Daesh (ISIS) and most against anti-Assad rebel groups with indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets included. If anything Russia may be supporting Daesh as factories in the Russian proxy held Donbas are turning out arms with instructions etc in Arabic. (But then, trying to figure out who is or is not supporting Daesh is a puzzle).

Some links:


  1. Y'know, the more I read the news, the more I feel like sticking my head in the sand (or in my case, a snowbank) and waiting for it to all go away. And I think that's the problem - everybody's doing the same, and by the time somebody comes along and kicks all our upturned asses it's going to be too late.


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