What did Vladimir Putin Know, and When did he Know it?

In September 1999, Vladimir Putin was catching hell for horrific human rights abuses in Chechnya.  Then two apartment buildings were blown up in Moscow, and Putin blamed it on the Chechen separatists, who denied involvement.  Opposition to Putin’s policies vanished, and he was able to launch a massive invasion of Chechnya.  When Alexander Litvinenko began publicizing accusations that Putin was complicit in the Moscow apartment bombings (alleging that FBS operatives had been caught red-handed trying to bomb a third building in Ryazan), Litvinenko was murdered with polonium poison.

Fast forward to April 2013.  Bombs go off during the Boston Marathon and a pair of Chechen terrorists turn out to be responsible. This occurs just as Putin was catching hell for supporting the homicidal dictator of Syria, and seeking to justify his support by claiming that Chechen terrorists were among the rebels fighting to end the dictatorship.  Just as in 1999, Putin attempts to use the bombing to justify his policy, claiming it proves he was right about the Chechens all along.

Then came a blockbuster revelation:  Putin had a wiretap on the Chechen terrorists who bombed the Marathon, and never told U.S. law enforcement about it.  What’s more, Putin began stonewalling the investigation into the bombing, failing to provide lots of other information wanted by U.S. authorities.

Is it possible that Putin knew the Chechens were going to launch an attack on the U.S., and let them do so in order to have convenient justification for his policies in Syria, as well as his crackdown in the Caucasus region?

Russia in a Nutshell: Burned alive in a Hospital

“Russia has a poor fire safety record, with about 12,000 deaths reported in 2012. By comparison, the U.S., with a population double Russia’s, recorded around 3,000 fire deaths in 2011.”

In nominal terms, you are four times more likely to be killed by fire in Russia than in the United States. In per capita terms, it is eight times more likely.

The world saw the horrific consequences of this terrifying Russian reality last week, when a psychiatric hospital in the town of Ramensky, north of Moscow, caught fire. 36 patients and two staff were killed, only three occupants escaped, and 29 were burned alive.

It took fire trucks more than one hour to respond to the scene.

This is barbarism, unchained, as only Russia can achieve.

For more than a decade now, Vladimir Putin has been increasing military spending and cold-war rhetoric in a pathological manner, and hoarding Russia’s currency reserves, instead of investing in making life better for Russian people.  This is not surprising, since Putin is a proud KGB spy and he is doing nothing more than copying the policies of his forefathers in the USSR.

Meanwhile, the craven denizens of Russia hand Putin unchecked power and allow him to act as he pleases, inviting more outrageous apocalypses like the one in Ramensky for themselves and their children to endure.

Russian Stock Market in Freefall

MICEC 2013

Since the beginning of the year, the Russian stock market has entered freefall.  It started the year at 1550 on the MICEX index and just fell below 1350 as oil prices continue their decline due to low demand in China and the West.

The Russian stock market has lost nearly 15% of its value in just the first quarter of 2013, and there is no end in sight.  As we recently reported, numerous Russian experts now believe that the Russian economy has entered a recession as economic growth has been in freefall for more than two years now, and despite this Russia is also seeing soaring inflation, the classic economic disaster scenario known as “stagflation,” the dragon that killed the USSR.

Russia has no true stock market. Instead, it has an absurd little jester, who dances to the tune called by world oil prices.  It has no mind or life of its own, it simply does what the world oil markets tell it to do.  One cannot invest in Russia, one can only invest in the price of oil. We saw what happened to Russia in 2008 during the global economic downturn:  absolute economic disaster. Things aren’t even that bad this time, but Russia is still headed into recession.

Recession in Russia! You Read it Here First!

One month ago, we reported that Russia would likely enter a recession this year.  It had experienced two consecutive years and two consecutive quarters of declining economic growth, and even state-sponsored media conceded that the only reason it was not already in a recession was the price of oil.

This week the price of Brent crude dropped below $100 per barrel, and not one but two prominent Russian figures announced that Russia has entered recession.

First there was Ksenia Yudaeva, Putin’s representative to the G-20.  She stated: “Frankly speaking, Russia probably already is in recession.”

Then came oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the New Jersey Nets.  He stated: “The economy is in recession.”

Moreover, Russia Today admits that global investor interest in Russia has plummeted by a shocking two-thirds in the last month.

You read it here first. Way out in front of the curve, we told you long ago that Russia’s economy had lost its momentum and was headed for the big flush.

But that’s only half the story.  We also told you that Russia’s inflation rate is out of control, which should not be happening as the economy contracts and is a sign of the paralyzing ultimate economic disaster known as stagflation, the illness that destroyed the USSR.

Putin has led his nation once again to the brink of national collapse.

Russia Beyond the Headlines and its Shameless Lies

Kim Zigfeld has penned a second installment in her ongoing series over at the powerful and influential American Thinker blog exposing the outrageously dishonest propaganda being churned out by the Kremlin bought-and-paid-for website known as Russia Beyond the Headlines.

This time, Kim shows how RBTH is  grossly distorting  the terrifying rise in military spending in Putin’s Russia.

Last time, Kim demonstrated how RBTH hideously misreported the kidnapping and torture of Leonid Razvozzhayev by the Kremlin’s operatives.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!

Russian Internet, by the Wretched Humiliating Numbers

Russia is #9 in among nations when ranked for population size.

But it is #56 when ranked for usage of the Internet. A shocking 47 countries in the world have smaller total populations than Russia but more extensive usage of the Internet.  Business usage of the Internet in Russia is a truly stunning world #95.

Looking further at the Runet, the picture gets even darker.

Russia ranks #90 for business innovation, #107 for growth of e-business, #108 for regulatory framework and #125 for intellectual property protection.

In fact, the only reason Russia ranks as high as it does, #54 for overall network readiness, is simply that Russia has a vast number of mobile users and improving broadband access for them. But the reason for this is that Russia’s land-line infrastructure is so utterly wretched that people have no choice but to opt for mobile phones. A tiny mobile phone is far from being the best way to fully access the wonders and power of global connectivity.

Costa Rica, Kazakhstan and Oman all rank higher than Russia does for overall network readiness.

Nobody can be surprised by this woeful performance given Russia’s draconian, neo-Soviet crackdown on the Runet. The Putin dictatorship relentlessly attacks online freedom, shutting down websites and prosecuting bloggers with impunity.  For this reason, Russia will continue to languish as a backwards country, cut off from the progress of modernity and from the flow of information that is crucial to global competitiveness.

Is Vladimir Putin in Trouble?

743820-121102-vladimir-putinIn polling data it published on April 11, 2013, the Levada Center asked Russians whether they’d like to see Vladimir Putin continue in power in 2018 when his third term expires, or be replaced.

Only 22% of Russian respondents said they’d like to see Putin retain power.  47% said they’d like to see somebody other than Putin or Dmitri Medvedev take power, while 8% said they’d like to see power returned to Medvedev’s hands. In other words, a clear majority — 55% — of Russians do not want Putin to seize a fourth term as president.

This is the third time in the past year that Levada polling has shown a majority of Russians rejecting a fourth term for Putin.  In August 2012 57% opposed this outcome, and in December 2012 51% did so.  One year ago, in March 2012, 49% were opposed to a fourth term for Putin.

Another result was still more interesting. For the first time since Levada began asking the question (in March 2004), less than a majority of Russians said it was a good thing for the country that Putin had virtually unlimited power. The first time the question was asked 68% of Russians said it was a good thing; in March 2013, only 49% said so.

Dissatisfaction with Putin is hardly surprising given that economic growth is plummeting while inflation is soaring, the horrific one-two punch that economists refer to as “stagflation.”  It is also known as the disease that killed the USSR.

But this hardly means that Putin will actually be replaced.  A Levada poll from February 2013 shows that a whopping 65% of Russians think Putin has brought the country more good than bad.  Another February 2013 Levada survey shows that Putin would get three times more votes than any named rival if an election were held today, and shows his job approval rating at a heady 65%.  It has never been less than 60% at any time in the past two years.  As we reported recently, Russians blame their bureaucracy and their legislature for their troubles, not Putin.

Russians could have turned Putin out of office in 2012, of course, but instead they reelected him in a landslide, not even calling for a second round to select between the two best candidates. They instinctively seem to know it’s not a good idea for Putin to remain in power forever, especially not with unlimited power, but they appear unwilling to actually place power in the hands of any other specific person.

The Psychotic Cult known as the Russian Orthodox Church

Kirill-Miss-Watch_2186482bOn April 9, 2013, two really amazing pronouncements were issued by the Russian Orthodox Church.

First, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, who oversees the Church’s public relations, told RIA Novosti that “even some scientists suggest that the sun and the entire universe rotate around Earth, not in a physical sense, but in a logical sense. According to Chaplin, this theory means that the world is created so that intelligent life inhabits space that is proportionally small compared to the size of the universe.”

Then, Patriarch Kirill himself denounced women’s rights to Interfax. He stated: “I find very dangerous this phenomenon, which is called feminism, because feminist organizations proclaim a pseudo-freedom of women that should in the first place be manifested outside marriage and outside the family. Man turns his sight outward, he should work, make money. While a woman is always focused inwards towards her children, her home. If this exceptionally important role of a woman is destroyed, everything will be destroyed as a consequence — family and, if you wish, the homeland.”

So women should not be allowed to work and, in some way at least, the sun revolves around the earth. Got that?

On Navalny and Prokhorov

Aleksei-Navalny-the-billi-011

If you think about it, in theory the notion of a political tandem forming between billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and blogger Alexei Navalny is an interesting proposition.  Each compliments the other almost perfectly  Prokhorov brings name recognition, financial stability and business connections, Navalny brings street cred, web connections and opposition chops.

A recent poll from Levada shows that a shocking 64% of Russians have never even heard of Navalny and only 14% (barely a third of those who have heard of him) would even consider voting for him for president.  Navalny’s name recognition soared upwards in 2011, from just 6% in April 2011, to an amazing 34% in June 2012.  But then more recently, it has plateaued.  The number had increased to just 37% by March 2013.

Prokhorov’s name recognition is much better, at most a fifth of the Russian population is unable to identify him.  But Prokhorov’s name recognition doesn’t help him with electability, his level is nearly as low as Navanly’s.  Just 18% of Russians said they were prepared to consider casting a vote for a political party organized by Prokhorov, and when he ran for president he was soundly repudiated, taking less than 8% of the vote. That’s because Prokhorov’s credibility is extremely low.

A clear majority of Russians who have read it (granted, a very small group) are prepared to believe that Navalny’s anti-corruption reporting is valid. Less than 20% of Russians who have read them reject his reports, while only about a quarter is unable to decide (still, that’s a surprisingly large 46% of Russians who know Navalny questioning him on critical facts).

As such, Navalny’s credibility within his cult of followers is far higher than Prokhorov’s, since 40% of Russians are prepared to believe Prokhorov is a puppet controlled by the Kremlin while only 30% believe he is his own man.

There are three main problems, though, with a Prokhorov-Navalny tandem. First, Navalny is headed to prison.  He’s been charged with embezzlement in a move very similar to the one that sent oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky to the big house, and he has said he expects to be convicted.  Second, Prokhorov is exactly the type of person Navalny has spent his adult life attacking for corruption. And third, Russians are almost certainly correct when they conclude Prokohorov isn’t a serious reformer and is in fact a Kremlin puppet.

That’s to say nothing of the opposition movement’s persistent failure to show any signs of being able to cooperate and form such unions.  Each and every time something of the sort has been tried, it’s ended in abysmal disaster.

As such, comparing the two only serves to emphasize the pathetic weakness of Russia’s so-called opposition.

Inflation Ravages Putin’s Russia

russia-inflation-cpi

Above you see a chart (click it to see full size) depicting Russia’s inflation rate between May 2011 and April 2013. The chart shows that over the last year Russia’s inflation rate has doubled, from 3.6% to 7%. The rate of 3.6% is the lowest Russian consumer inflation during the entire period under review, two years.

united-states-inflation-cpi

Above is the same information for the United States. As you can see, the highest consumer price inflation rate experienced by the U.S. during this period was essentially the same as the lowest rate Russia ever achieved. Currently, the U.S. inflation rate is less than one third the rate Russians are forced to endure.

In the U.S., 3% inflation is something to panic about. It is viewed as an economic disaster.  In Russia, 3% inflation is something to be proud of, because that’s what kind of incredible mess the Russian economy really is.  Look at the scales on the left margin of the two charts. The scale needed to measure Russian inflation during this period is more than double the size of that needed to measure inflation in the U.S.

According to Russian pundit Leonid Bershidsky, economic growth in Russia this year is less than half what it was last year and less than one-third what Putin has publicly proclaimed is necessary for the country. Things are so bad that many Russian economists are beginning to argue that Russia should start spending its reserves in order to stave off economic disaster.  But dumping piles of cash from the reserves into the economy would be like pouring gasoline on a fire. It could cause inflation to spiral out of control.

Oh and, by the way, the wicked one-two punch of failing economic growth and rising inflation is known as stagflation. You know, the thing perfected in Russia by Leonid Brezhnev and which led to the fall of the USSR. Those who cannot remember history . . .