Russia’s Currency Implosion

The value of the euro against the ruble has soared to its highest-ever level

The value of the euro against the ruble has soared to its highest-ever level as the Russian economy has tanked.

One Russian ruble is currently worth 0.021 European euros, the lowest value the ruble has held since the euro was created.

The ruble has lost 8% of its value against the euro in just the first month of this year, and a whopping 20% of its value over the past twelve months.

While horrifying, these gigantic losses by the Russian national currency are deceptively understated:  They would be much, much bigger if not for the Russian government pouring billions and billions of its foreign currency reserves, obtained from the sale of oil, into purchasing rubles in the currency market to artificially increase their value, blunting the brutal impact of consumer price inflation on imported goods in Russia.

The ruble, in other words, is back in free fall.

It seems like only yesterday that the Kremlin was arrogantly proclaiming its intentions to cease currency interventions and let the ruble float freely on the currency markets, proving that Putinomics had stabilized the Russian economy and given Russia a so-called “hard” currency that could rival those in the West. Oops!  The Moscow Times reports:  “Battling to restore confidence, Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev on Tuesday backpedaled on plans to free float the ruble by 2015, and the Central Bank on Thursday pledged unlimited interventions to keep the ruble firm.”

Oh well, back to the drawing board.

It’s hardly surprising to see the Russian ruble collapse when you know that Ulyukayev’s last major revelation was that the Russian economy has stalled out and entered a prolonged period of stagflation, with negligible economic growth accompanied by virulent price inflation, the worst of all possible economic worlds.  Who would want the ruble under such circumstances? Certainly not Russians, who are heading for the financial exits and dumping rubles in favor of foreign hard currency, further driving down the ruble’s value.

Russia’s Neo-Soviet Spies Assault US

Over on the massive Pajamas Media megablog, LR publisher and founder Kim Zigfeld explains how proud KGB spy Vladimir Putin has launched a full-scale war of espionage on the U.S.A., seeking to use the power of the Russian state to give commercial advantages to Russian companies, which would have the effect of liquidating American jobs.  Nobody with knowledge of Putin’s extensive background in the secret police and his virulent hatred of the US and its values can be surprised by this news, but the craven response of the Obama administration is truly chilling.

More Hilarious Dishonesty from Russia Today

It’s really quite hilarious watching the scurrying Russophiles respond to the latest international survey that reveals Russia to be a barbaric outsider among the population of civilized nations. What to do?! Try to spin them, simply ignore them or attack them as blatant acts of “russophobia”? What to do, what to do?

In a recent web item, Russia Today puffed out its chest over the latest “doing business” rating from Bloomberg, in which Russia ranked #43.  You might think Russia would wish to sweep a result like that under the table, considering that it made Russia by far the worst-performing nation in the G-8, and considering that China came in at #28 and Brazil at #38.

But Russia Today considered it great news, since Russia’s ranking had improved from 2012 by 13 spots.  Jaw-droppingly, Russia Today reported the fact that Russia was ranked even with Oman and just below Bulgaria, just above Panama, as if the positioning were unremarkable.

Russia Today chose to conceal from its readers (not providing any link to the Bloomberg data) that four of the other five nations from Eastern Europe appearing on the list were rated higher than Russia (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and even Bulgaria easily bested Russia, with only Romania falling behind).

Bloomberg provides an interesting page of data on Russia that Russia Today also chose to ignore.  Maybe that’s because the data on inflation and stagflation is pretty horrifying:  Only 15 countries are more ravaged by inflation than Russia according to Bloomberg, and only 23 are more at risk of the onset of stagflation. Yet, despite these economic blows, Bloomberg also found that only 7 countries in the world were more decadent and vice-ridden than Russia. Another surprising Bloomberg revelation:  Only seven countries have fatter women than Russia.

The dishonesty with which Russia Today “reports” the “news” is truly breathtaking and neo-Soviet in character.  A person who relied on Russia Today for information about Russia would simply have no clue what the real place was like.

OECD Exposes Critical Russian Weakness

Over on the powerful and influential American Thinker blog, LR publisher and founder Kim Zigfeld reviews a recent report on the Russian economy by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Europe. The report offers shockingly grim analysis of the Russian education system, concluding it is simply not prepared to equip Russians for global competition, and offers a bleak assessment of Russia’s economic prospects under Putin.

Levada on Putin and the Russians

A fascinating new poll has has just been published by Levada, the most respected pollster remaining in Putin’s Russia.

The poll reveals that if a presidential election were held tomorrow, only 29% of Russians would be committed to voting for Putin to take a fourth term.  By contrast, a whopping 57% of the electorate would either plan not to vote or would have no idea who to vote for.  It’s conclusive proof that Putin simply does not have the country behind him.

Putin’s level of support, well less than one-third of the country, is roughly the same today as it was back in 2009 during the depths of the worst financial crisis of the Putin era. That’s hardly surprising, given that Russia is currently headed into what the Kremlin admits will be a decade or more of economic stagnation and what could well be double-dip recession.

The poll shows that the Putin regime has been successful in its efforts to grind down its opponents.  Communist Gennady Zyuganov, for example, the leading Kremlin challenger at the ballot box ever since the fall of the USSR, has fallen from 12% support in the late 1990s to just 5% today. No other potential candidate polls even as high as 4%.  Alexei Navalny, disqualified from running by his criminal conviction, isn’t even in the conversation.  But this support hasn’t moved to Putin, it has simply become disenchanted.

The same thing occurs when reviewing Russian attitudes towards Putin’s party of power, United Russia.  Support for the party is even lower than it was in 2009, again less than one-third of Russians embracing it.  But the Communist Party has been ground down to a nub, receiving just 10% support whereas in 2002 it was at 17%. Only the parties of Prokhorov and Zhirinovksy poll better than 2% support.  But 46% of Russians say that if the election were held today they either wouldn’t vote or would have no idea who to vote for.  In an epic humiliation, Navalny’s party polls just 1% support, clearly indicting his total collapse.

So while Putin has succeeded in poisoning all opposition candidates and parties, such that his support remains vastly greater than any of them, he is increasingly alienating a large block of citizens from the entire electoral process.  His policies and practices have given rise to appalling cynicism, which will only encourage Russia to be more corrupt and less progressive as it enters a period when it can little afford to be either.

The Russian belief that there is no alternative to Putin is also very much inconsistent with Putin’s mortality:  Who will run Russia when Putin is no more?  Putin himself seems to believe this notion as well, just as Lenin and Stalin and Brezhnev did before him. That is why Putin is not even attempting to groom a successor.  Putin likely understands that grooming a successor would create the opportunity for someone to challenge his power, and that’s not something he’s willing to risk.  But it creates extremely dark clouds over Russia’s future to know that upon Putin’s demise the country will descend into utter chaos.

Russians Down Under. Way, way down.

No, dear, He's not going to help you.

No, dear, He’s not going to help you.

Russia put five male players and seven female players into the singles draws at this year’s first grand slam tennis event, the Australian Open.

By the end of the first week of the tournament, not one male player was still alive and among the women only Maria Sharapova, who has lived in the USA since she was a child and learned her game there, had survived.

Other than Sharapova, the only Russian singles player to reach the tournament’s fourth round was Ekaterina Makarova, who there faced Chinese opponent Li Na. The pair played fourteen games and Na won twelve of them, including every game in the second set.

On the women’s side, Russians Elena Vesnina and Vera Zvonareva lost in easy straight sets in the first round, while Alla Kudravsteva and Svetlana Kuznetsova lost in similarly one-sided straight set contests in the second.  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova got as far as the third and was the most credible in defeat, pushing her opponent to a third set before surrendering meekly there, 2-6.

As for the men, things were similarly ugly.  Alex Bogomolov simply quit after being crushed in the first two sets of his opening match.  Nikolay Davydenko, Dmitry Tursunov and Mikhail Youzhny all went down in the second round, with only Youzhny and Tursunov managing to produce competitive matches. Both were seeded in the draw and booted out by lowly unseeded opponents.  As with the women, the standout among the Russian men wasn’t really a Russian at all but one Teymuraz Gabashvili, who reached the third round before going out in straight sets to court legend Roger Federer.  Ask any Slavic Russian whether someone named “Teymuraz Gabashvili” can be considered Russian, and you’ll see that Russia can hardly claim credit for this modest achievement.

So once again, Russia was left in the pathetic position of having its national tennis honor defended by a player, Sharapova, who is about as Russian as Levi’s.

To say the least, Sharapova wasn’t up to the task. Indeed, her level of play was truly appalling. In her first three matches, Sharapova tossed in a shocking 29 double faults and struck a nauseating 130 unforced errors.

And just remember dear reader, this is the very best Russia has to offer. Do you dare imagine what you’d find if you studied the worst?

Consider this:  Sharapova, seeded #3, had one-third more double faults and only four fewer unforced errors than the #1 and #2 seeds combined in the first three rounds of the tournament.  It was truly an embarrassment, even by Sharapova’s wretched standards.

In other words, as has been the case so often throughout her checkered career, Sharapova moved forward in the tournament by sheer dumb luck, because she happened to face opponents who were even more pathetic than her.

But all good luck must come to an end.

In the fourth round, Sharapova found herself facing off against the diminutive #20 seed, Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, who stands more than a foot shorter than Sharapova.  The pair split the first two sets and then Sharapova promptly fell apart, taking only one of the seven games played in the deciding set.  With eight double faults and 45 unforced errors, Sharapova brought her totals to 37 and 175 respectively, over the course of just four matches.

And then there were none. Not one Russian player, male or female, managed to get as far as the quarterfinals at the year’s first grand slam event.

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Edward Snowden, Russian Spy!

Not one but two leading figures in the U.S. Congress intelligence establishment have revealed that confidential information leads them to believe Edward Snowden acted with Russian assistance in stealing U.S. security information. Over on the mighty Pajamas Media blog, LR publisher and founder Kim Zigfeld has all the details, as well as commentary on Putin’s recent interview by ABC News.

The NYT-Kremlin Conspiracy

It’s happened slowly and surreptitiously, but the Public Editor of the New York Times has undergone a metamorphosis. Today, she spends more time singing the paper’s praises than calling it to task. Call her the Public Cheerleader.

In May of 2011, the Russian government began inserting a color supplement known as “Russia Beyond the Headlines” into the pages of the Times.  Masquerading as news, RBTH has weekly regaled Times readers ever since with all manner of Kremlin propaganda.  Only if you were a seasoned Russia watcher or read the fine print and then started Googling would you have any idea about the true origins of the supplement.

Yet three years later, the Times’ Public Editor Margaret Sullivan claimed to be blithely unaware that the supplement even existed, much less had she or anyone else in the Public Editor’s office investigated the propriety of the Gray Lady’s conduct in regard to it.

In a January 2014 column, Sullivan wrote: “Just last week, The Times began a careful foray into native advertising — paid content that looks something like news.” Her statement was simply false: The “foray” began three years ago, when RBTH first appeared.  Indeed, Sullivan had “reported” in December of 2013 that native advertising was “about to arrive” at the Times “after months of preparation and scrutiny.” In fact, it had already been in place for quite some time.  What is Ms. Sullivan reading, if it’s not the New York Times?

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U.S. to Americans on Sochi: Just Don’t Go.

In a humiliating blow to Russia, the U.S. government has warned Americans not to attend the Sochi Olympic games because of the overwhelming risk that Russia will not be able to protect the games from terrorism and may not be able to deliver proper medical care in the event of a terrorist event.  Coming on the heels of the U.S. announcement that no cabinet-level U.S. official will attend the games, this announcement is devastating to Putin’s prestige.  Over on the powerful and influential American Thinker blog, LR publisher and founder Kim Zigfeld reports the details.