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.

Border white swirl

ad kseniya sobchak TV

Advertisements

Where the USA is — there is sorrow and death.

Russia, Ukraine

“Where the USA–there is sorrow and death.” Don’t shoot the messenger, but just as the message is disturbing, it is also accurate.

Just as unsettling is where the message originated: a prominent Ukrainian website that has long partnered with the West for democratic change in Eastern Europe. It is a turn in attitude which may well represent a sad reality settling in for Ukrainians who had hoped that the West/USA would stand with them in time of trouble.

Top line: “Where the USA–there is sorrow and death.” Sad, but as one who has been all over the world, there has never been a truer statement about my country. We used to be a beacon of hope to the world, but for at least a couple of decades we’ve been running on fumes from the past. We are not a beacon of hope today, and have not been for quite some time. Unfortunately, we still have the power to stir up trouble.

There are five columns, top to bottom, three rows. Column one is Moldova. The USA actively championed Moldova to turn West after the collapse of the USSR, and Moldova did, with a lot of encouragement from the CIA–only to be abandoned by the USA when a larger neighbor (Russia) decided to stop that progress. Those scenes in column one are real.

Column two is Chechnya. When the USSR collapsed, they wanted to be independent again, just like so many other former Soviet republics. They have oil, so of course the USA/CIA got into the mix. Two wars later, several hundred thousand civilians had died and today this Islamic republic is tightly controlled by Moscow. The USA switched sides after “9-11” as we thought that it was in our interest to partner with Putin to fight terrorists. Those scenes are real.

Column three is Dagestan. You likely know Dagestan from the Boston Marathon bombing, as that is where the Tsarnaev brothers were from. Dagestan is another Russian republic that wanted to regain independence from the Soviet demise. The USA quietly encouraged and aided, right up to the 1999 war with Russia. We then just as quietly exited, leaving the Dagestan people to fend for themselves against a vastly superior army. Those scenes are what really happened.

Column four is the country of Georgia. They did manage to leave the USSR, and the USA has been very active in Georgian politics ever since. When Russia decided to teach them a lesson in 2008, we pounded on the table and screamed from the mountaintops–and Georgia is a very mountainous country–but we did nothing when Russia invaded. Yes, those scenes are accurate.

Column five is Ukraine. The current administration, as stupid and useless as previous administrations, sent lots of “help” from the CIA to a parade of US Senators and cabinet officials. McCain and Nuland, damn you both, and please retire and stop running your mouths while pretending to know things that you really don’t. We tapped in to the desire of the Ukrainian people to be free. Apparently we thought that turning Ukraine over to the EU would be a cakewalk. Oops, epic fail.

Both the previous and current administrations pursued the so-called “domino theory” in which we could assist in triggering pro-democracy “spring” movements, and then step back to let the locals succeed in changing things. That doesn’t work too well when locals are left with little more than baseball bats to challenge tanks.

Both the previous and current administrations were/are dominated by naive and largely ignorant wonks, with no idea of what they started. The only difference between the former and the present is the increased effort to aid Islamic movements. Islam at the core is totally non-democratic, and any hope that we can pull such societies out of the 7th century and into modern life, is either grossly naive, or worse, purposeful.

Just like we abandoned the Czechs in 1956 and again in 1968, we rarely finish what we’ve started: Bay of Pigs or Vietnam, anyone? The question that many in the world ask today is: Why bother to stir up and start something that you don’t have the stomach to finish? In case we’ve ruffled a few feathers with this post, please don’t be offended when reminded that given our track record, the world has the right to question our motives…and our resolve.

border marble

ad Rosavtobank tele banking

Russian Children Meet new Polite Alphabet

Russian Children Meet new Polite Alphabet

The Russian attitude seems to be that if they can’t win the Ukrainians over, then we’ll make sure they hate us and one example of this thinking is in Russian schools as children are meeting the new “polite alphabet” meant to simultaneously engender Russian patriotism and denigrate anything Ukrainian while teaching the Russian Cyrillic letters. The Russian Cyrillic letters remain the same but the word examples for each letter now inject a healthy dose of propaganda, patriotism or both.

The new alphabet is being introduced to Russian school children in the Irkutsk region by Project Network, a pro-Kremlin group with plans to roll the new alphabet learning tools to more schools across Russia next year. They group is part of the “togetherness” project and say they are tasked to teach young Russian children that Russia, Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine are meant to be together.

For example the new alphabet primer and accompanying charts teach students that “A” stands for “Anti-Maidan,” the letter “Ya” is for “Yalta,” and as any good propagandist would hope, “P” is for “Putin.” Naturally “R” is for “Russia” and the face of Russian foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is matched to the term for “firmness” while the letter B represents the “berkut” Ukrainian riot police who defected to Crimea. Some older alphabet charts had the golden eagle (berkut) with the letter and a photo of the golden eagle.

Some will question why the letter “D” stands for Donetsk, a Ukrainian city instead of the more common word for “dom”  (home) as on existing charts. Organizers are quick to point out that Donetsk should and will be a part of Russia and thus school children should learn to think of Donetsk as Russian instead of Ukrainian. Some of the letter equivalents are a bit of a stretch.

To make the point about Ukraine, the chart assigns the letter ы for Крым, spoken as “Krem” (Crimea). No Russian words begin with the letter ы so Russian school children will meet the new polite alphabet with Крым for Crimea. To make the point that Crimea has been annexed into Russia the Ukrainian term for Crimea, Крим, has been circled with an arrow drawn through it.

Two letters within Russian Cyrillic, ь and ъ, have no sound themselves but serve to modify letters adjacent to them. The new “polite alphabet” did find patriotic words which included those letters and for example they assigned ь, the letter which serves to soften other sounds, to мягкость which is a term commonly used to express the idea of gentle or soft in relation to a mother and her baby. Some Ukrainian groups have responded on social mean with an alternate “war alphabet” that mocks the Russian attempt at indoctrination.

It is no accident that Project Network calls it the “Polite Alphabet,” as it is named for the so-called “polite” but armed forces that forced Russia’s annexation of Crimea earlier this year. The Project Network website claims that as Russian school children meet the new polite alphabet they “…will be taught to love the motherland, respect its people and culture.”

border green palead chai b border green blue