Are Sanctions Against Russia Working?

Putin

A common question is whether the sanctions against Russia are working. So, are they? In a word, yes. During a Moscow investment conference in Moscow on Thursday, Russian president Vladimir Putin told attendees “…conditions have become more complicated, but, as I have already said, this stimulates us to concentrate our resources and choose the best solutions, to achieve our goals in the shortest possible time and to work more efficiently in all areas.”

When Mr. Putin says that conditions are more complicated, even he is admitting that sanctions are having an impact. As to inflation, at least in part caused by retaliatory sanctions that Russia has levied against the West, Putin tried to deflect the issue by saying that inflation was really only in the food sectors and therefore very limited. His own admission on inflation however, is revealing: “…by the end of the year it will be around 7.5-7.6, about 8 percent, which is higher than last year (it was 6.5 percent in 2013).”

Certainly one can read forums and articles in which so-called experts claim that Russia will be just fine, and that the West will be the real loser at the end of the day. Wrong. Fools are born every minute, and some have the titles or positions of experts, but that does not change their foolishness. Most of those “experts” have spent little time in Russia.

When one looks at the issue of agriculture and food, in some sectors Russian dacha owners still give professional farms a run for their money. In the month after many European and North American food products were banned, the average Russian shrugged it as if they could survive without those things. They can of course, but over time we are sensing that they do not want to do without certain things in life.

But it is not just food that has been impacted, as rising monetary inflation is felt by every Russian, but as of yet has been left largely unspoken. The loss of purchasing power is having an impact as the government has made a conscious decision to use its only real assets against Europe: oil and gas. The Ruble has fallen over 20 percent this year against the dollar. That impacts every aspect of life from a trip to the market, to a trip overseas. Inflation or currency devaluation have the same net result–chipping away at the purchasing power for consumers.

Putin

The Russian government claims that sanctions will drive the economy to become more independent. Self reliance from the West was the same sad song during the Soviet period, and that didn’t work out too well then, either. The definition of insanity remains the same–the idea of doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result. Russia could well develop a more robust agrarian economic sector, but Russia must fundamentally change in order for a truly grassroots economic base to develop and mature.

It was the American founding father Thomas Jefferson who said that farmers are “the most valuable citizens.” Jefferson understood that hard work, unconstrained by a suffocating government, was the best way to build a self-reliant and sustainable local economy. It is a lesson that our Russian friends have yet to learn.

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Putin Prays for Soldiers

Putin ( Guardian Liberty Voice) Russian president Vladimir Putin took a few minutes during his day last Wednesday to pray for the souls of Russian soldiers who have died in the fighting in Eastern Ukraine. Putin visited Moscow’s Church of the Holy Trinity, a church in the “Sparrow Hills” area of southwest Moscow, in the vicinity of Moscow State University.

Putin was in Moscow to greet former Prime Minister of Japan Yoshiro Mori at the Kremlin. Mori was visiting Moscow while participating in a Russian-Japanese Forum. The Russian leader normally works at the official presidential residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, a Moscow suburb. The Moscow Kremlin is used primarily for state and diplomatic functions.

Putin’s visit to the Sparrow Hills Church was brief, just long enough to light several candles, and say a prayer for the souls of Russian soldiers who had died while fighting in Eastern Ukraine.

Putin told reporters that he lit candles for “those who died defending people in Novorossiya.” The term Novorossiya (Новороссия) means “new Russia” and is a resurrected term from the days of Russian imperialism. Putin has recently hinted that he views Ukraine not as a state, but as a territory of Russia, and some say this means that he believes Ukraine is subject to being reclaimed.

Read the entire article here.

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Hillary Clinton on Vladimir Putin

We generally enjoy the thoughts of Jedediah Bila on just about any topic, and especially appreciated her recent thoughts on Hillary Clinton vis-à-vis Vladimir Putin.

She began her blog with a recent article from The Hill, which reported:

In a CNN interview scheduled to air on Sunday, the possible 2016 front-runner and former secretary of State said Russia “bears responsibility” for arming and supporting Russian separatists in Ukraine.

“I think if there were any doubt it should be gone by now that Vladimir Putin – certainly indirectly through his support of the insurgents in eastern Ukraine and the supply of advanced weapons and, frankly, the presence of Russian special forces and intelligence agents – bears responsibility for what happened to shoot down the airline,” she said on “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”

Vladimir Putin So, Jedediah Bila posed some questions for Hillary on her blog. Here is a sampling of her questions:

1) What happens if Europe doesn’t take the lead on sanctions? Would a strong American policy stance inspire a strong European policy stance?

3) Should the United States be placing Pentagon advisers in Ukraine right now? What about military assistance to the government in Kiev?

4) The Daily Beast recently reported that “Kiev last month requested the radar jamming and detection equipment necessary to evade and counter the anti-aircraft systems Moscow was providing the country’s separatists.” Your reaction?

Jedediah’s last question is the most important, given the coming 2016 elections:

6) If you were President today, what would you do with respect to Russia and Ukraine?

Jedediah Bila is co-host of “Outnumbered” on Fox News at 12pm ET. She is an author, columnist, and Fox News Contributor. Follow Jedediah on Twitter @JedediahBila.

Read Jedediah’s blog at jedediahbila.com.

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New Ambassador to Russia will be John Tefft

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s senior foreign policy advisor, Yuri Ushakov, has signaled to Washington that Moscow will agree to the appointment of John Tefft as the next Ambassador to Russia. Although cautious, Ushakov in an interview with the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS called Tefft a “professional diplomat” with previous experience in Moscow.

New Ambassador to Russia will be John Tefft

Still ahead are the US Senate hearings once the Obama administration makes the formal nomination. Confirmation shouldn’t be a problem as Tefft is no stranger on Capitol Hill, with foreign service experience dating back to 1972. Most recently Mr. Tefft was the US Ambassador to Ukraine from 2009 to 2013 and he has served previously in the Moscow Embassy under deputy roles. From 2000 to 2003 he was the US Ambassador to Lithuania and the US Ambassador to Georgia during 2005 to 2009.

The nomination of Tefft , who speaks Russian and Ukrainian, is likely to be well received in the Senate after the debacle with the inexperienced Michael McFaul in the position. The Russians say that the Obama administration made the initial request regarding Tefft in June and their announcement of acceptance came while Russian President Putin was in Cuba as part of his diplomatic tour to Latin America.

The annexation of Crimea and the continued fighting in Eastern Ukraine have left relations in tatters between Russia and the United States, some going so far to call the chill a new “Cold War.” Adding to the tension is the suspicion that Tefft’s appointment is due to his experience with so-called “color revolutions.” He served in Ukraine at a time of regime change and he was the US Ambassador to Georgia during the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008.

Pravda wrote this week that Russia could not afford to trust Tefft regardless of his prior experience in Russia. Andrei Kortunov, of the Moscow based New Eurasia Foundation, was quoted in Pravda saying that the Tefft appointment would not automatically signal a renewal of open dialogue with Russia. Kortunov pointed to the failures of the McFaul ambassadorship and current tensions regarding Crimea and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

Both countries must approve Ambassadorial appointments and foreign diplomats are received when the incoming Ambassador formally presents diplomatic credentials to the host nation. Traditionally foreign ambassadors present their credentials to Russia’s president and foreign minister during ceremonies held in the Grand Kremlin Palace’s the Alexander Hall.

June 2014 reception of new Ambassadors in the Grand Kremlin Palace.
June 2014 reception of new Ambassadors in the Grand Kremlin Palace.

Of interest to some is that Tefft’s wife will join him in Moscow. Many Russians didn’t understand why previous Ambassador Michael McFaul chose to leave his family in California while trying to make the 9,000 kilometer weekly commute fit his Embassy schedule.

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