democracy, Economics, latest, Russia
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Vladimir Putin’s 17 years in power: The scorecard

by Alex Krainer, The Naked Hedgie
Editors: Today, October 7, 2017, Russia celebrates the 65th birthday of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.  To mark the occasion, we are posting Alex Krainer’s review of Putin’s achievements since 2000.

Mr. Putin can’t seem to get a break in the western media. I watched his recent interview with CBS’s Megyn Kelly with her tiresome, boring questions like, “did Russia interfere in our election,” “did your ambassador meet with Trump’s election officials,”  “isn’t it true that you’re a corrupt murderous thug,” etc. Only in response to Kelly’s last question did Mr. Putin get to name a handful of his achievements in Russia. But someone ought to better prepare his talking points on this score. The excerpt below from my upcoming book summarizes how Russia has changed during the 17 years since Mr. Putin has been at the helm.

On 26th July 2014 British magazine “The Economist” published an article titled “A web of lies,” opening with the following two sentences: “In 1991, when Soviet Communism collapsed, it seemed as if the Russian people might at last have the chance to become citizens of a normal Western democracy. Vladimir Putin’s disastrous contribution to Russia’s history has been to set his country on a different path.” Well, we have already seen how Russia fared in the 1990s after Soviet communism collapsed. For some reason, the bright minds at The Economist thought this path was so promising, it was a real shame – a disaster, no less – that Vladimir Putin took Russia on a different one. Let’s take a closer look at Mr. Putin’s “disastrous contribution.”

To start with, Putin played the pivotal role in keeping the country from disintegrating. When he came to power, Russia’s regional governors were writing their own laws, disregarded presidential instructions and were not even returning their republics’ tax receipts to the Federation’s purse. Mikhail Gorbachev stated that Putin “saved Russia from the beginning of a collapse. A lot of the regions did not recognize our constitution.” [1] But this historical feat was only the starting point of the subsequent renaissance of the nation. Its economy returned to growth and became more vibrant and diverse than it had been perhaps since the reforms of Pyotr Stolypin of the early 1900s.

Economic reforms

In 2000, Russia was one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Without instituting draconian purges, Putin took on the oligarchs and steadily curtailed their power, gradually returning Russia to the rule of law.  By 2016, his government had reduced corruption to about the same level as that of the United States. That was the empirical result of the annual study on corruption published in 2016 by Ernst & Young.[2] The global auditing consultancy asked respondents around the world whether in their experience, corruption is widespread in the business sector. Their survey, which was conducted in 2014, indicated that only 34% of their Russian respondents thought so, the same proportion as in the United States, and below the world average of 39%. Things have probably improved further since then as Vladimir Putin stepped up a high-profile anti-corruption campaign that led to investigations and prosecution of a number of high level politicians around Russia. Even highly ranked members of Putin’s own political party were not spared.[3] The unmistakable message of such campaigns was that corruption would not be tolerated and that it would be aggressively investigated and prosecuted. Some of the best evidence that Putin’s various anti-corruption measures have had effect can be found in World Bank’s Enterprise Surveys which ask businessmen the question, “was a gift or informal payment expected or requested during a meeting with tax officials?” In 2005, nearly 60% of respondents answered affirmatively. By 2009 this number was 17.4% and by 2012 it had dropped to only 7.3%.

World Bank--corruptiontrends

Putin’s government also made impressive advances in making it easier for entrepreneurs and small businesses to set up shop, raise capital and operate in Russia. According to World Bank’s annual “Doing Business” report, which ranks 190 world economies on a set of attributes such as the ease of starting a business, obtaining construction permits, obtaining electricity, raising credit, and enforcing contracts, on all the metrics combined, Russia managed to climb from 124th place in the world in 2012 to 40th in 2017.[4] Thus, within only five years, Russia had vaulted an impressive 84 positions in World Bank’s ranking. This was not a random achievement but the result of President Putin’s explicit 2012 directive that by 2018 Russia should be among the top 20 nations in the world for ease of doing business.

One of the strategically important sectors where Russia has made striking progress is its agricultural industry. After the disastrous 1990s, when she found herself dependent on food imports, Russia again became self-sufficient in food production and a net food exporter. By 2014, Russian exports of agricultural products reached nearly $20 billion, almost a full third of her revenues from oil and gas exports. Not only is Russia now producing abundant food for its own needs, the government is explicitly favoring production of healthy foods, a strategy which includes a ban on the cultivation of genetically modified (GMO) crops, introduced by the State Duma in February of 2014. According to official Russian statistics, the share of GMO foods sold in Russia declined from 12% in 2004 to just 0.1% by 2014.

These and many other constructive reforms have had a very substantial impact on Russia’s economic aggregates as the following examples show:

  • Between 1999 and 2013, Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) leaped nearly 12-fold from $1,330 per capita to more than $15,560 in 2013, outpacing even China’s remarkable economic growth.
  • Russia reduced its debt as a percentage of GDP by over 90%, from 144% in 1998 to less than 14% in 2015!
  • Gross national income per capita rose from $1,710 in 2000 to $14,810 in 2013.
  • Unemployment fell from 13% in 1999 to below 5% in 2014. Among the working population (those aged 15-64), 69% have a paid job (74% of men).
  • Only 0.2% of Russians work very long hours, compared to 13% OECD average.
  • Poverty rate fell from 40% in the 1990s to 12.5% in 2013 – better than U.S. or German poverty rates (15.6% and 15.7%, respectively)
  • Average monthly income rose from around 1,500 rubles in 1999 to nearly 30,000 rubles in 2013.
  • Average monthly pensions rose from less than 500 rubles to 10,000 rubles.

Social and demographic improvements

Putin’s economic reforms included also a more equitable distribution of wealth. As hopelessness faded and standard of living improved, Russian society started to heal: suicides, homicides, and alcohol poisonings declined dramatically. Over the twenty-year period between 1994 and 2014, suicides declined by 56%, homicide rate by 73%, and alcohol poisonings by 83%!

vvp_miserystats

The chart below shows the evolution of these improvements over time:

vvp_suicideshomicidesetc

As we can see, these misery statistics rapidly deteriorated with the introduction of shock therapy in 1992, but the trend sharply reversed soon after Putin took charge. By 2014, these figures reached their lowest values since even before 1992. Along with these improvements, the nation’s demographic trends also experienced a dramatic turnaround. Russian life expectancy, which sunk to an average of barely 64 years (57 for men), rose steadily from the early 2000s to reach almost 72 in 2016, the highest it has ever been in Russia’s history.

vvp_lifeexpectancy

Looking at the way life expectancy in Russia changed over time, we see again that it had collapsed in the early 1990s but the trend turned around sharply under Vladimir Putin’s leadership of the country. Similarly, fertility rate, which dropped to 1.16 babies per woman in 1999, increased by almost 50% to 1.7 babies by 2012, comparing favorably to European Union’s average of 1.55 babies per woman of childbearing age. Abortions declined 88% from a harrowing 250% of live births in 1993 to 31% in 2013.

vvp_fertility

Not only are Russians living longer than ever before and enjoying much better quality of life, they also feel freer and happier. In 2014, Gallup Analytics reported that 65% of Russians, more than ever before, answered “Yes” when asked, “are you satisfied … with your freedom to choose what you do with your life?” Meanwhile, Russia’s happiness index rose more than tenfold, from 6 in 1992 to 70 in 2015. Happiness index, compiled by VCIOM[5] adds the proportion of the respondents reporting that they feel decidedly happy or generally happy and deducts those that report feeling generally unhappy or decidedly unhappy.

vvp_happiness

The next chart further corroborates the idea that under Putin’s leadership, Russia has been developing as a sane and prosperous society, not only for the benefit of a narrow ruling class and at everyone else’s expense, but for the vast majority of ordinary Russians.

vvp_satisfactiondirection

By 2014, the great majority of Russians felt satisfied with their lives and believed that things in Russia were moving in the right direction. These figures only tapered off after the 2014 western-sponsored coup in Ukraine and the subsequent economic sanctions imposed on Russia. At the same time, the price of oil – still one of Russia’s largest export – collapsed from over $100 per barrel to under $40. Economic sanctions and the oil price collapse triggered a significant crisis in Russia’s economy. However, in spite of the continuing sanctions regime imposed on the country, its economy started improving again in 2016, thanks to its diverse industrial base that includes a developed commercial and consumer automotive industry, advanced aircraft and helicopter construction based largely on domestic technologies, world’s leading aerospace industry building satellites and top class rocket engines, and advanced industries in pharmaceutical, food processing, optical device, machine tools, tractors, software and numerous other branches.  Indeed, Russia is far from being just the “Nigeria with missiles,” or a “gas station with an army,” as many western leaders like to characterize it.

Insofar as a population’s sentiment is a valid measure of its leadership’s performance, Russia’s development under Vladimir Putin stands in sharp contrast with the weak performance of most other developed nations, including those that most vehemently criticize Russia and its president.  According to polls conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs in 25 different countries in November 2016 and published by the World Economic Forum, almost two thirds of the people in the world believed that their countries were moving in the wrong direction. The leading western nations scored just as badly, while some among them did flat out dismally.

vvp_russiarightdirection

Evidently, Russians feel much better about the way their nation is shaping up than do constituents of many western nations[6] whose sanctimonious leaders like to lecture their Russian counterparts about prosperity, freedom, democracy and other exalted values they purport to cherish.[7]  It may thus only surprise the most credulous consumers of western propaganda that a high proportion of Russian people trust Vladimir Putin and approve his job performance.  In the early 2017, Putin’s job approval stood between 80% and 90% and has averaged 74% over the eleven years from 2006. During this period, no western leader has come even close to measuring up with Vladimir Putin.

vvp_trustapproval

Over the years, I’ve heard depressingly many intellectuals attempt to dismiss Putin’s achievements and Russian people’s contentment as the product of Russian government propaganda. Putin the autocrat, you see, keeps such tight control over the media that he can deceive his people into believing that things in the country are much better than they really are. But the idea that government propaganda can influence public opinion in this way is just silly. If the majority of people thought their lives were miserable, state propaganda could not persuade them that everything is great. On the contrary, most people would conclude that the media is deceiving them and might feel even less positive about things as a result.[8] It is sillier still to think that western intellectuals should have a better appreciation of what it is like to live in Russia than the Russian people themselves. Rather than buying the truth from their media, such intellectuals would do well to take a trip and visit Russia, speak to ordinary people there, and reach their own conclusions. My own travels in Russia, as well as reports from other visitors largely agree with the positive picture that emerges from the statistics we’ve just examined.

Notes:

[1] (Gorbachev: Putin saved Russia from disintegration 2014)

[2] (Stulb 2016)

[3] Some of the names arrested in 2016 surprised even the Russian public as they included such high caliber individual as the Mayor of Vladivostok, Igor Pushkarev; Governor of the Kirov region, Nikita Belykh; Governor of the Sakhalin region, Alexander Khoroshavin, Deputy Minister of Culture Grigory Pirumov and Minister for Economic Development, Aleksey Ulyukaev.

[4] (Romer 2016)

[5] ВЦИОМ – Russian Center for Research on Public Opinion

[6] A different, Associated Press – GfK poll in July of 2016 uncovered an even darker public sentiment in the United States: “A stunning 79 percent of Americans now believe the country is heading in the wrong direction, a 15-point spike in the past year…” (J. Pace 2016)

[7] VCIOM’s figures for November 2016 are somewhat higher than those of Ipsos (62% vs. 58%).

[8] This, for instance, was the situation in the late 1990s when only 5 to 10 percent of Russians thought that the country was heading in the right direction in spite of the ruling elite’s nearly total control of the media.


Alex Kraineris an author and hedge fund manager based in Monaco. Recently he has published the book “Mastering Uncertainty in Commodities Trading“. The above article is an excerpt from his upcoming book (really, any day now…) whose working title is “The Killing of William Browder”.

 

 

32 Comments

  1. Frank says

    It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the image of Russia created in the western MSM is, shall we say, somewhat out of kilter with the reality (British understatement!). But this is to be expected. There is, after all, a war going on. Russia and China are blocking the Anglo-Zionist’s increasingly desperate attempts to create a subservient World Empire – moreover adding insult to injury the two Eurasian powers are in the process of creating there own Eurasian political/economic/political bloc – and the frustration at this turn of events has become manifest in the western media.

    Thus the ongoing demonization of Putin in particular and Russia in general. Putin is of course unspeakably bad, a bad man, in a bad country, ruling over bad people; this is the view of the West’s MSM. Comic book stuff really from the West’s Ministry of Truth. And even if it were true it would be irrelevant. The real question arising is this: Do Russia/Putin threaten western interests or not? This is something of a rhetorical question as the answer is a resounding NO! In fact the threats are coming from NATO and the Anglo-Zionist empire as the encirclement of Russia and China continues unabated.

    Traditional geopolitical and diplomatic practise, as enshrined in the Treaty of Westphalia 1648 which ended the wars of the Reformation. Under the Westphalian system states existed within internationally recognised borders; non-interference in the affairs of sovereign states was agreed; religious differences between states were tolerated; permanent state interests were recognised – in Palmerston’s words, a state does not have permanent friends or allies, only permanent interests – was the organizing principle of international relations. The objective balance of power resulting, therefrom, was to prevent one state becoming so powerful that it could conquer and destroy the world order.

    Suffice it to say that this system has been completely abandoned by a post-modernist political doctrine based upon a type of divine mandate given to an ‘exceptional’ people to reconstruct the world in their own image. Thus regime change, drone assassinations, the overthrow of democratically elected governments, permanent military occupation, mass murder, are all perfectly acceptable in the creation of a putative global Shangri la. Not only has the ‘indispensible’ nation the right to carry out this heavenly mission, it has a duty to do so. Thus:

    ”Dictators and human-rights abusers like Serbia’s Milosevic’ (who has now incidentally been exonerated from charges of war crimes) ”could not hide behind the principle of sovereignty to protect themselves as they committed crimes against humanity … under these circumstances outside powers (NATO) acting in the name of human rights and democratic legitimacy, had not just the right, BUT THE OBLIGATION TO INTERVENE.’ (My emphasis) Francis Fukuyama – State Building

    There you have it. A doctrine of permanent war on democracy and national sovereignty pusued against any nation state of which the Anglo-zionist bloc disapprove.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. So funny watching the excitement in the Western Main Stream Media over a few hundred people arrested out of some hundreds protesting in Russia against Putin this week. You’d think there were hundreds of thousands the way the media drooled over the video. I mean it’s not as if our Western media have any bias against Russia, is it?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Christopher Barclay says

      Which should ANYONE be arrested for taking part peacefully in a political protest?

      Like

      • Kaiama says

        All public gatherings require authorisation, as happens in any large town or city in any country. The organisers deliberately ignore the requirements preciesley so they can manufacture a protest when they get arrested. Nowhere is there any assessment in the MSM (that I can find) about whether the protests were significant. There are millions of people in Moscow elegible to vote so a few hundred is clearly insignificant. More people turn out for festivals, football matches, and pop concerts. The covereage in the MSM was manufactured bollocks designed to ruin Putin’s birthday. Its just pathetetic. For the record, Navalny is just as much a crook as most Russian politicians.

        Liked by 2 people

      • @ChristopherBarclay
        They were not arrested for demonstrating, unlike demonstrators in the UK marching peacefully. They were arrested because of WHERE and how they were demonstrating, putting not only their own lives at risk but that of others. Same thing happened in my town in Cambs with many arrests being made(it too was peaceful until the police started arresting the demonstrators). But let me guess – “that’s different” eh?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Fair dinkum says

    The 1% despise/fear any nation/leader that makes an effort to address social injustice (Putin, Castro, Gaddafi).
    Proof positive that the ruling class are socio/psychopathic by nature.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Christopher Barclay says

      I doubt Putin would want to be associated with a man who drove his country’s economy into the ground (Castro) or a tyrant who wasted his country’s natural resources (Gaddafi). If you had read the article, you would have learnt that Putin has encouraged private investment in order to diversify the economy and has forced state bodies such as the tax authorities and regional governments to respect the rule of law.

      Like

      • @Christopher Barcland
        and if you knew anything of any worth or could actually recount the truth, you would know the lie of your words regarding Gaddafi’s and the many superior (to Britain and many other countries in the west) improvements he made to his people’s country and how the resources – which he designated belonged to the people(as in Iran and Syria)were being offered to Russia for investment within the pipeline agreement(hence the reason he had to go – just like Assad and Hussain) and were NOT squandered at all. And in case you do not understand the nature of private investment whereby funding is provided which the people’s taxes cannot secure, the funding was for the purposes of strengthening the country’s future and economy in the interests of the people of Libya rather than the corrupt pilfering and asset grab the US and western trade agreements were demanding.
        If you have come on this site to TROLL(and I can think of no other reason for your even visiting this site dedicated to truth and facts)then you are not earning your keep with these blatant attempts to misdirect or misinform.
        TROLLS – once recognized, are usually ignored -contempt being the preferred acknowledgement with nil replies, let us know if you recover from your bout of Russophobia and Putin bigotry. or if it’s a permanent affliction(bigotry usually is).

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Deposited says

    Good to see a well-researched article with some verifiable facts in it. Contrasts well with the typical Western corporate media.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Big B says

    “Russia reduced its debt as a percentage of GDP by over 90%, from 144% in 1998 to less than 14% in 2015!”

    Yeah, by going bankrupt! I don’t suppose Russian savers really saw the Russian Banking Crisis as a positive event: as their wealth was wiped out by the devaluation of the Ruble? Still, as it was in the Yeltsin era, and oil prices played a large part – it was no reflection on Vladimir Putin. So I was intrigued as to why it is claimed as one of his achievements??? Paying off the IMF bailout package early and managing the economy without their ‘help’ – now that’s an achievement.

    Like

    • Big B says

      For the hard of thinking that (I presume) downvoted me for an alleged derogatory comment: perhaps a little mansplainin’ is required?

      The Russian Federation inherited the entire debt of the former Soviet Union. Not a good start. The Yeltsin era was a carnival of speculative credit creation. ruble printing, and an orgy of privatisation. This gutted the productive economy – leaving it overly dependent on oil revenues (Dutch Disease); and borrowing (domestic and foreign {including the IMF}) to fund the deficit. After a couple of external shocks – the Asia Financial Crisis (Soros); and a fall in oil and metal prices – the (deliberately) weakened economy began to falter. There was a speculative attack on the ruble (Soros?). To prevent a run, the Central Bank of Russia was forced to use its $$$ (Forex reserves) and bullion. Amid the bursting speculative debt bubble; the the hyper-inflation of the collapsing ruble; and to prevent a total collapse of the banking system – Russia defaulted on their domestic debt, and suspended foreign debt payments. Yes, they went (technically) bankrupt in 1998.

      Further IMF loans were part of the restructuring. As I presume everyone knows, IMF loans are predatory and contingent on conditionalities. These amount to a forfeiture of sovereignty unto imperial capitalism. [They also seem to go hand in hand with pre-emptive currency speculatory attacks – led by Uncle George]. That sovereignty was already compromised by being made liable for former Soviet debt. How much of the above was a Shadow Government plan to reduce the Russian Federation to a perpetually indebted vassal of $$$ denominated vulture capitalism is moot – but it is not my speculation alone. There is a familiar established pattern to IMF lending: debt is their WMD. Clearly Vladimir Putin thinks the same way: allegedly wanting Soros “dead or alive.” When he came to power, he was having none of the West’s plans for Russia, paid off the IMF early, and reclaimed a large tranche of Russian sovereignty.

      [No country has true sovereign self-determination and autonomy under the current dollar-denominated globally networked system]

      If I didn’t make myself clear: that I consider to be a real achievement. But to claim it as an economic miracle attributable to Putin alone is a falsehood. The dramatic fall in debt to GDP over the period is the cumulative effect of default; devaluing the ruble; and the rise in oil (and commodity) revenues from 1999-2009 (self-financing with no new borrowing). In fact, since 2009: the ratio is INCREASING year on year (from 7.4% to 17% in 2016): but this is not critical, it’s FACTUAL. There are a lot of malevolent forces trying to undermine the Russian economy: which Putin, to his ongoing credit, seems determined to resist.

      I hope I have contextualised the reasons why the current debt ratio is so low. In doing so, no slight is implied on Putin.

      Liked by 2 people

      • @BigB. That’s much better. How many other Russian politicians could have done what Putin has done(regardless of ethics, which seems to be an intrinsic element anyway)in securing investment and contracts and enabling the petro dollar crash(by rescuing Syria and affirming friendship with Iran, China and Turkey)and to get on side countries that could bypass the US and EU domination of the global petrol orientated markets? He has been jetting all over the world securing Russia’s financial future with the pipelines and OBOR and successfully effecting changes in market trends devoted to US and OPEC oil. THAT is why the US is so desperate to wage economic and propaganda war against Russia and Putin in particular. To say his tenacious and charismatic diplomacy cannot be attributed to what he has achieved and ascribe it to “somebody else’s influence” is rather akin to missing the whole point of why the US and it’s NATO allies have gone full throttle against him. There has never been anyone so dangerous to the US since Stalin, but for different and possibly specious reasons – from all sides involved.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Big B says

          Hi Susan: “To say his tenacious and charismatic diplomacy cannot be attributed to what he has achieved and ascribe it to “somebody else’s influence”…”. Did I say that? I merely pointed out that he didn’t reduce the debt to GDP ratio by 90% as claimed. There were other factors: which make the authors claims disingenuous. Even to this day, despite diversification, Russian GDP tracks the price of oil – which is natural for a hydrocarbon superpower. He’s good, but he’s not that good. If the price of oil had remained low in the noughties: there would have been nothing he could do.

          Going forward, compared to the debt zombies of the West (excluding Germany); there is no doubt the Russian economy is in good shape under Putin – not despite of sanctions, because of them (as this report from the Duran details). He is a great statesman, a shrewd and wiley operator: probably the greatest of the world leaders (which is meant positively – even though it is not actually saying much, given the quality of the opposition). But he ain’t the messiah; he ain’t going to save the world; I would question whether he is indeed an anti-capitalist hero; and I’m certainly not going to enter into his cult of personality.

          You mention intrinsic ethics: I would question how they relate to the energy partnership with Netanyahu – to develop the Leviathan-Tamar gas fields – providing long-term energy (and thus political) security for his Zionist apartheid regime? Bear in mind that the same Zionist apartheid regime entered the Gaza Strip twice (Cast Lead and Protective Edge – total Palestinian casualties in the region of 3,500) to eliminate Hamas – in order to “to generate a “political climate” conducive to a gas deal” to secure the rights to Gaza Marine??? [As reported by Nafeez Ahmed in the Guardian – for which I believe he got fired.] I don’t see anything intrinsically ethical about that?

          “He has been jetting all over the world securing Russia’s financial future with the pipelines and OBOR …” and entering into deals with Total to start the exploration of the Arctic… hang on, we’ve got enough hydrocarbons; we should be thinking of leaving them in the ground (to remain within ‘safe’ limits: 80% of our proven reserves should be declared ‘unburnable’): not exploring for more? This was something Medvedev said when he was President (am I allowed to say that – it kinda undermines the whole 17 years in power premise – the fact that he has only been President for 13 of those years?) Russia setting itself up as a hydrocarbon superpower is eco-suicidal; and just as much of a threat to the future of civilisation as the US Imperium he may or may not replace.

          I don’t know what OBOR says to you: but it says the intensified commodification and exploitation of Nature to me. As well as the networking and expansion of consumerism into the heart of the 21st century. That is something we neither need, nor can afford – in terms of the preservation and equitable distribution of resources. Instead of creating a consumer middle class in Asia Pacific and across MENA (because in the US, much of Europe, and the UK – the credit has been maxed out): the energy (you only get to ‘spend’ it once) and resources could be better deployed in transitioning to a post-carbon world. Not that anyone will listen to my concerns.

          Liked by 1 person

          • “Abortions declined 88% from a harrowing 250% of live births in 1993 to 31% in 2013.”
            Impressive list of facts, but…with respect to live births, 100% would be all of them. So please explain how abortions declined from 250%??

            Like

            • Awkward phrasing, but the meaning is clear: whereas abortions outnumbered live births by two and half times (250%) in 1993, by 2013, they’d dropped to 1/3 of the number of live births.

              Liked by 2 people

          • @BigB
            I am in favour of reducing our carbon footprint but, like the scientist who would not sign and thereby consign the poorest nations to enduring poverty because the rest of the world had already made their wealth AND the problem by using fossil fuels. As long as countries like the US and EU/ME are playing catch up on how quickest to destroy this planet, I cannot and will not denounce a country fighting illegal sanctions imposed by corrupt global interests and governments.
            As for Putin being an anti-capitalist hero. Well don’t that beat all. He is using the capitalist model in this game of poker in order to play them at their own game and knows only too well how wealth and power are acquired and it isn’t by using Marx’s socialist model. I often wish the whole world markets would just crash and burn so we could reboot it with a new program. Of course it would be a disaster and sadly must not happen. It would simply give those with the most wealth a further opportunity to grab and take all.
            As for my “ethics” comment, I meant what I actually said, ethics are throwaways when it suits and any values once assigned to them are disposable as and when it suits, whenever they become an inconvenience. I wasn’t specifically referring to Putin’s, rather, anyone chasing the wealth is just as culpable as the worst offenders and that pretty much is a global pattern.
            Obor for me represents a means by which sole power and domination over all by the US and it’s NATO partners, is finally confronted by the stark realization that they and the oil rich countries will have to compete on a more level playing field and as such, petrol, oil, gas etc. will no longer have the value they had within the competition of energy as they once did. China and other countries have technologies that need refinement and investment and could, if OBOR becomes a reality, become a game changer.
            It’s difficult to predict long term strategies when tomorrow is an unknown due to the threat the US currently poses(and all those who hang on to it’s coat tails)with nuclear annihilation.
            The US, Britain, France, NATO and the ME monarchies have made war the currency by which oil prices are jumping up and down like Zebedee out of The Magic Roundabout and the political manoeuvres currently being conducted at breakneck speed all hinge on who’s winning what war, the US and it’s cohorts(of which there are many)is winning at any one time. It seems to me that Putin is hedging all his bets on a game of Cleudo but with the added problem of US wars changing the rules at every turn. With this in mind, he can’t have enough irons in the fire – it’s Russia’s very existence he is battling for.
            This scenario can only ever change if the OBOR succeeds and the US is finally confronted with a unified alternate axis of power in which the petro dollar loses it’s pole position, only then will change be possible.
            I would forgive you if you referred to my thinking as tosh, I’m a fan of Joe Stiglitz, but even among economists there is always a division of thinking and I know you understand economics extremely well. Mind you, if the US manages to kick off WW3 over the next few days, weeks, months, all bets are off – it won’t matter a jot what either of us think.
            Oh, btw, I’m all for a reset with the Marxist ideology and a halt to all hostilities – neither of which is likely to happen, but I can dream.

            Like

            • @BigB
              Just reread my own comment and realised I missed a word out which totally changed the context of the sentence.
              “(regardless of ethics, which seems to be an intrinsic element anyway)”
              should be “regardless of ethics which seem NOT to be an intrinsic element anyway)”
              Not so much a faux pas as a complete bollocks of what I was actually thinking.

              Like

            • Big B says

              “The US, Britain, France, NATO and the ME monarchies have made war the currency by which oil prices are jumping up and down like Zebedee out of The Magic Roundabout…”

              That’s not strictly true. If it were: the price of oil would rise instead of being in a fluctuating freefall from it’s late 2014 plateau. And simplistic supply and demand tactics (after the glut, reducing production) doesn’t seem to be working either (the price may creep up to $60pb by the end of the year – still way below the break even point for most producers). It’s beginning to look as though the price of oil is demand constricted – limited to what heavily indebted industrialised economies can afford to pay.

              That’s why the Russian economy is so well set: because of that low debt to GDP ratio. The other corporate (Big Oil) and OPEC producers are kicking the (increasingly heavy) debt can down the road: cannibalising future profits to do it. If they get in trouble (which they probably will) – who is set to step in???

              [As we’ve mentioned before: the same is true with natgas. The whole American LNG supply of Europe cannard is a bluff (although the American idiocracy believe their own propaganda). All Putin has to do is wait: and he’s sanction proof while doing it.]

              Maintaining focus on the article: that’s were Putin was so smart. On the back of high oil prices (without creating a mountain of new debt): he diversified the economy into agriculture, industry, tech, (and arms), etc; made investment capital available for startups, entrepreneurs, SME’s (there was a limit on foreign investment, I believe; which was further limited by sanctions). But before we enter into hagiographical veneration – growth (GDP) is still limited by the price of oil. And that is not in his power to control. He is working well within the biophysical restraint on the economy: sitting on $75tn of reserves; playing the long game. All he has to do is wait for the future.

              [But what future? Will the financialised industrialised networked world economy return to profit and demand for oil and gas stimulate the cost of production (and so GDP)??? I won’t go off into the long grass: but I think not. I think we are looking at a very different future scenario.]

              And here’s the kicker: almost uniquely among industrialised nations – Russia is already (virtually) self-sufficient in terms of food and energy sovereignty. Thanks to sanctions; import substitution; analogous technologies; analogous banking (for instance, their own SWIFT system); and self-investment – they are future proof. [Maybe not quite, if the tundra melts – but let’s not go there.] In fact, despite the algorithmic cult of Putinbot downvoters – I’m thinking of moving there!

              Liked by 1 person

              • @BigB
                Excellent riposte. I tend to reduce everything down to the lowest denominator – usually by ridicule, which is why I take the Mick out of the US and it’s perpetual wars intended to secure their economic future, but which in actuality, deliver to them the opposite. I remember the panic when oil hit a low of of $30 dollars a barrel and Russia must have been celebrating, precisely because they could profit while the US could only watch in horror. These wars of theirs are costing billions in the pursuit of oil enrichment and that’s the joke(if war could ever be called a joke considering the suffering it involves). The US spends billions to enrich itself and ends up footing the bill two-fold. I truly believe that the lunatics are in charge of the asylum. Had they not invested so much in their war efforts to acquire wealth(somebody else’s)that outlay could have been diverted to shore up their economy instead.
                I admire Putin, Lavrov et al and I am truly worried for Russia’s future without Putin, but am not so naive as to lay all successes firmly at his door, the man ain’t no Saint. Only by comparison to nearly all of the other world “leaders”(I use the term in it’s most eye watering hypocritical meaning)could he be viewed as a messiah, but if not for him – his ability to surround himself with clever advisors and his unflinching willingness to be advised and avail himself of their wisdom, his steadfast deliverance of political savvy and restraint in the face of such adversarial snakes, I do believe Russia would have been lost.
                If I could afford to move to Russia, I would, such is my admiration for Putin. All the more amusing for me because six or seven years ago I knew nothing about him and thought him an arrogant braggart and extrovert. His only saving grace for me was saving the South Ossetians from Sakashvilli’s murderous madness. How things change. After taking note of his words and his behaviour over these past years since, in the face of the political establishment’s global gerrymandering, his commitment to Syria and his out manoeuvering of the two faced Kerry and all he represented, his quiet resolve and restraint have earned him my respect. I am just not as pragmatic as you(that’s how you always approach the articles you read, whereas I am never as subjective and always reactionary). so once again, I bow to your ability to put things in perspective rather than be influenced by emotive response to perceived opinion.
                Having said that, if Putin can avert or subvert the US machinations towards war, then I too, will jump on the bandwagon and my clarion call will be “Long Live Putin”. Heroes being in such short supply, many of us need one and many of us need something or someone to believe in however flawed and I am willing to pin my hopes for a glimmer of a better future in a man(and that is all he is)who has delivered so much. It doesn’t really matter how much of what is claimed was his and his alone, the fact is that he has achieved. Too many times over the last few years I’ve thrown my hands in the air and said “stop the world, I wanna get off” and the lies and deceits send me into a spiralling depression. Then Vladimir Putin comes riding in on his white charger(probably a silver Su 32)and starts really destroying the US backed ISIS and gives hope to millions of Syrians and my hopes are renewed for them. He means different things to different people, just not everything.:)
                Regards, Susan.

                Like

                • Maybe not move, but I’ve got a long standing invitation to stay with friends in St Petersburg. It’s on the bucket list: I guess I should do it soon … in case the neocons do something stupid! : -)

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • @BigB. The neocons have been doing “stupid” for years now, it’s what they’re good at. Hope you get to visit your friends in St. Petersburg and get an invite to stay a very long time. Russia may actually be the safest place to live – I’m 80 miles away from London – that’s not far enough away if NATO, which is busy ferrying US tanks currently, go AWOL with whatever sense they have left.
                    Lord help us.

                    Like

  6. Enough is enough says

    If only we had a statesman of his calibre. Here; alas, only exceptional scum appears to rise to the top.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. What an extraordinary man, a real genius. I hope he will run in the 2018 presidential election, Russia needs him to stay a long time yet. Многая Лета (Mnogaya leta – Many years – Grant, Oh Lord, Many Years). С Днём pожденья! (Happy Birthday!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says

      Your comment is downright cringeworthy.

      The main reason the economy picked up is because oil prices increased. Then, he encouraged private investment and entrepreneurship to make the economy more competitive, along with tax reform that is literally what the Heritage Foundation recommends for the U.S. (low flat tax).

      Contrary to the delusions of posters here who think Putin is some anti-neoliberal saviour, he actually followed the capitalistic model. Any other leader would have done the same thing. Without oil prices being so high, especially after America’s invasion of Iraq, this would never have happened. Thus, the improvement was more passive than most would believe.

      Growth like Russia’s in the 2000s was only possible because the weak economy gained a ground due to oil prices, allowing higher salaries to be paid.

      Like

        • Mohandeer: this Matt guy is a troll who floods blogs and websites with anti-Russian, anti-North Korean and anti-Venezuelan comments and whose username tag at Reddit is #DownWithAssad.

          Do not encourage him by replying to any of his comments.

          Liked by 1 person

          • @Jen.
            Thanks for the confirmation, suspected he was a paid troll and now we know he is, I won’t waste my time further on him.
            Regards,
            Susan

            Like

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