Putin’s Russia: Point of No Return

The bad economic and political news for Russia’s president and government continues to mount. Not only have international sanctions remained in force over Russian actions in Ukraine, but global economic developments appear increasingly to the Russian Federation’s detriment. Falling oil prices, the reintegration of Iran into the international marketplace, the turbulence in the Chinese stock market, forest fires in Siberia – all are having an adverse effect on the Kremlin’s fortunes. Yet in the Western press, Russia’s woes are not dwelt on or analyzed in depth. The world knows the Russian economy is hurting, but it is largely ignorant of the possible catastrophe for Russia’s regime and its vast state as a whole.

In Russian- and Ukrainian-language online media, by contrast, much commentary has appeared concerning Putin’s apparently impending demise and the increasingly dire circumstances of ordinary Russians. When it comes from Ukrainians, it is understandably presented in an acerbic and sarcastic tone. Below is one such piece from a Ukrainian author writing in the online publication Russkiy Yevrei {‘Russian Jew’) and addressing the Russian people. It is rife with idiomatic expressions, and an attempt has been made to explain some of these in footnotes. The implications of the commentary are clear, however. The world may be witnessing the collapse of the Russian Federation, and the cataclysm could come as early as the end of this year.

In Russia, the most momentous events will begin in October and end quickly in December

Viktor Shevchuk ~ Russkiy Yevrei / 8 August 2015

Well, the ‘Gathering of Lands’ play is in its final act. Everything became clear after oil fell below $50 a barrel, and imported products in Russia were being crushed under tractors. What next?

Putin greeting the people on the one-year anniversary of the annexation of Crimea

Putin greeting the people on the one-year anniversary of the annexation of Crimea

In a surprising way, in early August, several events coincided. Let’s put them in order. Iran enters the oil market and obtains access not only to credit in the West, but also to large-scale investments. What this has changed isn’t important: Iran wants to live like the Emirates, and in 10-15 years it will happen. China has allowed a branch of the railway to bypass Russia on a ‘new Silk Road,’ and it’s no surprise that plans are being made in Odessa to significantly expand transportation terminals. Ukrainian ports are ready to work in two directions: from Europe to Asia and from Asia to Europe. Terminals are expanding against a backdrop of tractors destroying sanctioned food products in Russia.

And here’s how out of place Russia is. In the United States, oil reserves are suddenly overflowing, so that the oil urgently needs to be sold – and sold to Europe. And Saudi Arabia, amid falling oil prices, isn’t planning to reduce oil production, but rather to increase it. This is understandable as well: the fall in energy prices represents a long-term trend of 5-10 years. Why is this happening? Because in the United States, analysts have calculated the benefit from ‘printing’ oil extractions on US territory. This will significantly revive the economy. Obama wants to leave office not only as a peacemaker, but also as the president who led the US economy out of stagnation, and it seems he’ll get what he wants. And suddenly China’s stock market collapses! Let’s see how it was toppled and by whom. Yes, that’s right, by the one who heated it up, but that definitely isn’t the Chinese government. For a moment we thought: why are they doing that? Very simply, it’s so that investors rush from China to the United States while the US economy is growing. True, this will be an interesting trend over the course of the next decade. Is it happening against a backdrop of new energy technologies and industrial 3-D printing? Believe me, the technological surprises are just beginning.

A cartoon of Vladimir Putin featuring Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, a former deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and close personal friend of Putin, up his sleeve

A cartoon of Vladimir Putin showing Viktor Medvedchuk, former deputy speaker of Ukraine’s parliament and Putin’s close friend, up his sleeve

And what’s happening in Russia? Gazprom and Rosneft are in fact bankrupt, and the event horizon for them at the end of 2015 is beyond the horizon. The fact is, there are no prospects for the lifting of sanctions against Russia, just as there is no possibility of increasing the sale of oil and gas in the next 5 years. Prices are dropping, and new pipelines will be built in 7 years, if of course the money is found. [Rosneft CEO Igor] Sechin has already informed the President that there are going to be problems in Russia with the production of gasoline, because ‘when the price of oil is at $40, it isn’t profitable to produce gasoline in Russia.’

And the army is becoming ever greater. Apart from that, all of Siberia is burning, and the fire probably won’t be extinguished any time soon, because someone keeps reigniting it. I wonder who? In Siberia, China has a 50-year lease on land that’s larger than Crimea and Donbas combined. The annual rent on that costs less than one (1) American fighter. And suddenly Russian property starts getting seized in Europe after a judgment in the Yukos case. The champion of the seizures is France, ‘our old reliable friend.’ It’s not hard to guess why: because snow machines in Moscow ‘accidentally’ struck down the president of France’s biggest energy company, TOTAL. The French aren’t fools: this wasn’t [the late Polish President] Kaczynski’s plane. Somehow, they didn’t believe the explanation of ‘bad weather conditions.’

And the cherry on the cake – of sanctions, oil prices, the seizure of property of the state and the oligarchs – is the state debt. The peak of corporate and government payments comes at the end of August, beginning of September and December. That is to say, round sums will have to be paid. But part of the money overseas has been seized, and the Stabilization Fund of Russia isn’t $300 billion, but $150 billion. And everyone wants to eat. At the same time, Russia isn’t only fighting in Ukraine, but has also opened a ‘second front’ in the Caucasus, where the number of rebels in Dagestan and Chechnya is increasing. ISIL, born not without the help of the FSB [Federal Security Service of Russia, domestic successor to the Soviet KGB ~ Ed.] and the GRU [Main Intelligence Directorate, or the Russian military intelligence agency ~ Ed.], has suddenly appeared in southern Russia.

A Russian citizen picks through a garbage heap

A Russian citizen picks through a garbage heap

What will happen in Russia in the fall can be labeled a domino effect, and in Russian they say, ‘I really want to eat, but somehow everything has disappeared.’ This will be especially noticeable in remote regions of Russia in relation to fat Moscow. Dear Russians, everything will happen like this. After another holidaymaker in Chita1 (incidentally, the outskirts of the city have already burned due to fires) arrives in a zinc coffin, the parents of ‘Krymnash’2 will one morning not find the food items they’re used to in the shops. And ‘vacationers’3 in Ukraine at the end of 2015, thanks to help from the ‘aggressive NATO bloc,’ will already be wreaking destruction using the new technology – remotely.

a 'Krymnash' propaganda t-shirt, celebrating the annexation of Crimea

‘Krymnash’ propaganda t-shirt, celebrating the annexation of Crimea

But don’t worry about ‘vacationers’ and ‘parmesan cheese.’ As a consequence of the budget gap and the panic in the food market in Siberia, in the North and in the non-black earth areas, by October there won’t be any parmesan. And when the dollar has reached 120 [rubles], potatoes imported from Belarus will be a delicacy. And the first hunger riots will start in December on the periphery. Moscow certainly isn’t going to send troops to both Siberia and the North to suppress everything, but it will have to make some kind of decision. And already the main question won’t be about withdrawing troops from the Donbas. The main question will be ‘Krymnash,’ and Putin will stop blowing his horn about this, in as much as suddenly returning Crimea to Ukraine would be a general capitulation and catastrophe. As an option, they will offer reparations, and it won’t be $100 billion as in May. It will be much more – about $200 or $300 billion. And Ukraine will haggle, but won’t agree, because – after all – what will still lie ahead will be more interesting.

I want to immediately dispel the naivete of 86% of the ‘krymnashys,’ who believe that everything can go back to the way it was if it itches with the words of my favorite author:

‘Sometimes I read all sorts of analysts, and I especially like those who write about the ‘Anaconda’ strategy that the civilized world is conducting in relation to Katsapstan4: slow strangulation, with no sudden movements. However, we at the Department are smarter than any analysts, and so we describe what’s being done to Russia without mincing words. It isn’t the ‘Anaconda.’ It’s the ‘Monitor Lizard.’ This is to snatch a piece of the victim’s buttock, then go a safe distance behind the wobbly horse as it staggers from loss of blood and sepsis, and wait until the thing quietly bleeds to death.

Sanctions aren’t sledges. You can’t turn them around with a rope. And what, does someone really think that if Raisa Vladimirovna5 becomes well tomorrow, cuts her hair and clips her nails, they’ll tweak the price of oil especially for her, to keep her from coughing? Or will the loss of reputation be immediately refunded? People will gather together and say, ‘Well, screw the Norwegians, let’s buy from Russia again. They’ve become such nice people over there!’ They’re such goodie-goodies…

Sanctions, when analogized to amputation, at first cause inconvenience to both sides. Only after a while, one side heals and grows, and the other rots and poisons. And in this situation the convalescent isn’t interested in changing anything. In the obviousness of katsap consciousness, it is assumed that a severed leg can be sewn back on as much as one likes. The most important thing is to bite the nails off one’s toes and get a pedicure.

Valentin Pavlov

Valentin Pavlov

My dear, beloved ‘Russian liberals,’ who correspond with me periodically with emotion and compassion, no one is going to open the valve back up for you (this is already not so easy to do) or return the money – at least for the foreseeable future – even if you give back Crimea. By the time that’s done, Russia will again be in 1991, after the reforms of Pavlov6 and the State Committee for the State of Emergency 2.0MMM. And more accurately, you already passed the point of no return last year near Ilovaisk and Torez.7  Therefore – good luck. Save your salt and matches for December. A big hello from London, where my partners and I are discussing a new project, ‘Intermarium.’8


1 Chita is a city in Siberia.

2 ‘Krymnash’ (a truncated form of ‘Crimea Is Ours’ in English) is the name for the Russian government’s PR campaign for the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

3 ‘Vacationers’ refers to the Russian government’s public explanation of Russian citizens participating in the war in Ukraine. It said they were fighting while ‘on vacation.’

4 ‘Katsapstan’ is a derivation of the slang pejorative for Russians – katsap – used here to refer to Russia as a whole.

5 Possibly a mocking reference to Vladimir Putin in the form of a feminization of his name.

6 Valentin Pavlov was a prime minister of the Soviet Union who joined the attempted coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. The putsch attempt was led by something called the ‘State Committee for the State of Emergency in the USSR,’ of which Pavlov was a leading member.

7 Ilovaisk and Torez were the sites of battles that turned the tide of war in Ukraine in Russia’s favor in late summer 2014. The Ukrainians obtained proof of the involvement of regular Russian army units during and after the fighting there.

8 Intermarium was the name of a plan pursued by Polish Leader Józef Piłsudski after World War I to unite the central and eastern European states into a federation under Poland’s aegis. The federation would have included Belarus, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Ukraine and Yugoslavia.

Самое главное в России начнется в октябре и быстро закончится в декабр

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