Friday, July 28, 2017
QUICK HIT #8
Russia’s desire to repeal the Magnitsky Act and its sanctions has become pretty obvious, as it’s becoming more and more apparent that repeal of those sanctions is Putin’s price for helping Trump win the presidency. But if repeal is the aim, you’d think Putin would be trying to appease the United States and its allies, not antagonize them.
Make no mistake, Putin and the Oligarchs are ripping their country off to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars and they want to stash the loot outside the country. Why? Because they fear sharing the fate of Ukraine’s former, pro-Russian President, Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych fled his country in the face of a popular uprising, running, if not for his life, at least for his liberty. If there’s anything crooked oligarchs hate, its imprisonment by their victims.
Yanukovych is currently residing in Russia. Perhaps he and Puttin have met from time to time, reminiscing on the good old days when they sucked the Ukrainian economy dry. But even if they haven’t, even if Yanukovych has fallen too far to be accorded a royal audience, Putin can’t help but think, “If it can happen next door, why not here?”
Right now, despite a high poverty rate and falling wages, the Russian people continue to support Putin. That comes as no surprise, what with the murders of journalists and political competitors, the suppression of anti-Putin demonstrators, and state-control of almost all elements of the media. But the future is cloudier. The Russian economy, after nine quarters of recession is finally moving forward, but at an anemic rate, a mere .5%. And with the United States expected to become among the world’s largest exporters of oil by 2020, Russia’s economy isn’t likely to boom anytime in the near future. You have to sell a lot of caviar and vodka to compensate for $50 per barrel oil prices.
For dictators the world over, moving a substantial portion of your loot into a safe harbor, in case you have to make a run for it, is a priority. Losing power is one thing, going broke another, serving years and years in an eastern-European jail still a third.
Given the need to protect his ill-gotten gains, you'd think Putin would do everything he could to maintain prosperity and stability in the West. But Putin’s effort to destabilize the very countries he counts on to protect his money is virtually undisputed. Now these countries are biting back and biting hard. Russian oligarchs wake up these days to find their laundered money frozen, themselves banned from travel to the West and their pet banks unwilling to do business with Russian crooks.
To my beloved wife, Putin’s actions are no mystery at all. Putin’s sense of his own greatness, in her opinion, far exceeds any rational measure of his abilities, just like Trump’s. We’re looking at grandiosity, pure and simple, and Vladimir Putin’s just another deluded psychopath who thinks he’s too smart to get caught. Jails around the world are full of people exactly like him.
I’m not crazy about comparisons between Trump and Putin. That because I’m pretty sure that Trump, if he wasn’t born rich, would be driving a truck. Putin, on the other hand, made his way up the ladder, one claw-hold at a time. I have to think, what with all the pundits who talk about him playing three-dimensional chess to Trump’s checkers, that Putin’s too smart to destabilize the economies of countries that hold and protect his money. Then why….
But that’s the mystery part, and if I had an answer that passes the stink test, it would’ve started this posting. As it is, I’m resisting the obvious, that Vladimir Putin, like Don the Con, is simply irrational. That one’s just a bit too frightening.