December 2015

18 December 2015

Kremlin in Crisis Mode: Putin’s dissembling may signal regime desperation

Just as the Western intelligence and think-tank community did not predict the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, so the West may be witnessing the meltdown of the Russian Federation under the regime of Vladimir Putin today – without any serious debate or discussion of this momentous eventuality. One indicator is the degree to which the head of the Russian state is in denial and/or lying about the situation in his country.

At his most recent annual marathon press conference on 17 December, Putin recited statistics (seemingly interminably) to prove the country’s economic health and fielded questions from the audience as usual. One young woman aimed some distinctly and uncustomarily uncomfortable points at her country’s leader (view here at 1:10:35), and Putin’s answers – and the manner in which he delivered them, stuttering, coughing and clearing his throat – suggested dissembling or serious embellishment of the truth.

German historian and political scientist Andreas Umland – in a blog post entitled Towards a Regime Change in Russia: A Brief Prognosis – has raised the possibility of an imminent ‘deep transmutation or even full-scale transition’ of the current Russian regime in light of several factors, including the parlous state of Russian sovereign finances. He has also linked to The Insider blog, which analyzes Putin’s statements at the press conference. How much longer can Putin put a good face on catastrophe?

Catcher in the Lie: 5 Things Putin distorted at the press conference

17 December 2015 ~ The Insider

Putin at Press Conference

Putin at the press conference on 17 December 2015

In his appearances, Putin likes to refer to facts and figures. This, of course, makes a speech convincing, except that a significant portion of the facts and figures either do not correspond to reality or are juggled. Today, The Insider presents 5 of the most obvious examples of these mistakes, which Putin made during his press conference in the Kremlin.

  1. About foreigners supposedly not wanting to adopt invalids

‘I want to draw your attention to the statistics, which show that the percentage of our disabled children adopted by foreigners is much less than for healthy children. None of the foreigners had not eager to adopt or adopt sick children. This is the statistic. Therefore, we will not rush to change the decisions that have already been made.’


Of course, always and everywhere, healthy children are more likely to be adopted than those with disabilities. But comparing Russian and foreign adopters, we see a clear difference: foreigners are more than 10 times as likely to adopt children with disabilities than Russians are.


In 2012, Russians adopted 6,565 children, including 29 persons with disabilities; foreigners adopted 2,604, including 160 with disabilities. Many disabled persons were taken in by foreign families in previous years: in 2011, 3,400 children were adopted by foreigners, including 186 with disabilities; in 2010, foreigners adopted 3,355 children, including 146 disabled.

  1. The Growth of Production

‘Since the 2nd quarter of this year, there are signs of stabilization in economic activity. What is our basis for such a conclusion? In September-October, GDP growth (already growth) was respectively 0.3-0.1 of the percent the previous month. Since May the volume of industrial output has not declined. In September-October, a small increase—but still some sort of increase—in industrial production was recorded: 0.2-0.1 percent.’


In fact, all this ‘growth’ and all this ‘stabilization’ are nothing more than a seasonal factor. Here’s a chart from Rosstat, which clearly shows that taking into account the seasonal factor no positive dynamics have been observed:

Industrial Output

Index of Industrial Production as % of 2012 monthly average (orange: total volume; blue: excluding seasonal factors; green: trend)

  1. Inflow of Capital

‘Capital outflows have been significantly reduced. Moreover, in the 3rd quarter of this year a net inflow was recorded.’


Firstly, the positing of the question itself is incorrect: if the outflow of capital has decreased, it does not necessarily mean that Russia is becoming more attractive for investment. It may mean that there is already nothing to run to. Secondly, no inflows are observed. In the first half of 2015, according to the Central Bank, the net outflow of capital amounted to $52.5 billion, while in January-November it amounted to $53 billion. Dollars.

  1. About how Saakashvili has been denied a visa

‘By the way, in my opinion, Saakashvili was not given a work visa to the United States, but they sent him to Ukraine. Let him run things there.’


In December 2013, Mikheil Saakashvili was established as a teacher at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in the US, and therefore he definitely had a work visa at that time. In 2014, Saakashvili was sent to Ukraine, where he actively supported the revolution, and in 2015 he first became advisor to Poroshenko, and then the head of the Odessa Regional State Administration. It is unlikely that, occupying such a high-ranking public office, Saakashvili asked for a new work visa to the United States (the rumor about that was disseminated by the Georgian newspaper ‘Alia,’ but has not, however, been confirmed). Saakashvili himself wrote on his Facebook page: ‘Putin has once again lied, saying that the Americans did not give me a visa, while I have a ten-year tourist visa and a three-year work visa.’

  1. On the Doubling of the GDP and the Victory over Terrorism

‘The volume of our GDP has almost doubled – that is an outcome. Strengthening the defensive capabilities of the country, the power of the Armed Forces – that is an outcome. The fight against terrorism, the manifestations of which we have still not completely vanquished, but the spine of which we have definitely fractured – that is an outcome.’

Putin summed up the outcomes of his reign with this phrase. And if the point ‘strengthening the defensive capabilities’ is difficult for us to measure (although the death of Russian citizens in Ukraine and Syria scarcely speaks of the strengthening of security), then estimating the growth of GDP and the number of fatalities from terror attacks is possible. And in both of these parameters, the statement of Putin is false.

Firstly, Russia’s GDP has not doubled in spite of all the promises. Russian GDP (in international 2005 dollars) amounted to 1.93 trillion in 2000 and 3.4 trillion in 2014, and this year, in view of the fall of about 4%, the GDP should reach about 3.2 trillion. Thus, Russia’s GDP grew by about 1.6 times in 15 years.

It is also important to realize that GDP growth should be assessed by comparison with other, similar developing countries, such as the BRIC nations: Brazil, India and China. Brazil, like Russia, has not shown brilliant success: its GDP has grown by about half. But India’s GDP has increased from 2.6 to 7 trillion (2.7 times); China’s GDP has increased from 4.6 to 17.3 trillion (3.7 times). And this is despite the fact that the extremely high prices for crude oil in Russia were a strong stimulus, while for the rest of the BRIC countries they were additional costs.

GDP Growth

GDP growth measured in constant 2005 international dollars

As for terrorism, during Putin’s presidency the number of victims of terrorist attacks in Russia has increased substantially. The number of terrorist attacks (and their victims) is increasing not only in Russia. The terrorist organization ‘Islamic State’ – the biggest hotbed of global terror – declared a ‘jihad’ against Russia. In short, if Vladimir Putin did break some sort of spine, it certainly was not terrorism.

Number of Terror Victims.jpg

Number of victims of terrorist attacks in Russia committed since 1994

Над пропастью во лжи. 5 фактов, которые переврал Путин на пресс-конференции


17 December 2015

Russia is blockading Ukraine by sea: expert

The war in Syria has successfully distracted world attention from Ukraine, and to the extent the outside world expresses any interest, it generally concerns Russian actions on land – in eastern Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula. But Russian interests in keeping Ukraine within Moscow’s orbit largely concern natural resources in Ukraine’s territorial waters – especially natural gas – and according to one expert at least, Russia is now quietly putting in place a blockade in the Black Sea to prevent Ukraine from controlling its own maritime energy resources.

Russia begins naval blockade of Ukraine: expert

17 December 2015 ~

The Russian Federation has begun to capture parts of the Ukrainian economic zone of the sea, creating the arc of a naval blockade with the aim of cutting Ukraine off from maritime links. Such conclusions can be drawn from the fact that the installation of Russian oil extraction equipment within 55 kilometers of Snake Island and 100 kilometers from the coast of Odessa region.

Media expert and journalist Alexander Poddubniy writes about this on his political commentary blog, as reported by Press of Ukraine.

‘Russia’s logic is simple: by seizing the Odessa gas field (the yellow triangle on the big map), Russia automatically declares the territory its economic zone. Russia does not need a separate Odessa field without underwater gas pipelines, and—as seen in the smaller map—it is connected to Crimea by a gas pipeline (through the Golitsyn gas condensate field). That is, Moscow takes the territorial waters surrounding the gas communications by the appropriate military seizure. Russia will treat any attempts to counter this as “encroachment on its territorial integrity,”’ says Poddubniy.

Black Sea Blockade

Insert shows array of Russian naval power extending west from Crimean peninsula to blockade Odessa and Mykolayiv ports.

Analyzing the images on a large-scale map, the expert notes that the Russian Federation is leaving Ukraine a narrow 55-mile isthmus between Snake Island and the Odessa gas field, which can be used for navigation and access to the Bosporus. The journalist suggests troubles that could soon affect Ukraine due to the actions of Russia in the Black Sea.

‘For modern military equipment, and even more for cruise missiles, this is an extremely small distance. Ukraine will thus be in maritime isolation. This will make it impossible, for example, to supply Ukraine with South African coal, which is essential for surviving the winter season. It also covers the Ukrainian ports of Odessa and Mykolaiv regions, which would create the necessary economic and social grounds for further Russian occupation of southern Ukraine,’ says Poddubniy.

He also claims that in this case the Ukrainian authorities must act with extreme decisiveness: ‘not with diplomatic notes,’ and directly demand from our active allies in the US ‘dispatch of its warships to the Black Sea’ to restore control over the Odessa gas field. The expert warns that, if the moment is lost, ‘the world will not help a country, which dutifully watches as its territory is taken away.’ It is precisely in the coming days that Kyiv will be obliged to keep its promise ‘to shoot down Russian planes if they violate the airspace of Ukraine.’

‘How does the seizure of Ukrainian territorial waters differ from airplanes? In both cases we are talking about aggression against Ukraine. Kyiv has very little time to resolve the problem of the sea, or the consequences will be catastrophic,’ summarizes the expert.

Россия начинает морскую блокаду Украины, — эксперт

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