Operation "Destroy Putin” Hits a Wall, as Russian Economy Returns to Growth

Chalk one up for the underdog.

Thu, Apr 16, 2015
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City on a Hill - if you believe it

Paul Robinson sent me a link yesterday that made me laugh out loud. You remember that scene in “Back to the Future,” when a carload of bullies is chasing Michael J. Fox on an improvised skateboard, and they run into the back of a truck that dumps about three-quarters of a ton of warm cow manure through the convertible top? Yeah, that was funny.

Or the scene in “A Christmas Story,” where Ralphie Parker, grunting angry profanity, falls upon school bully Scut Farkus like a wildcat on peyote and reduces him to blubbering sobs? Poetic justice, how sweet it is.

The bully getting his due is a perennially popular concept. That’s why I laughed when I read that the Russian economy has quietly returned to growth, (thanks, Paul) and added $10 Billion to its reserves since it had to spend a ton of money to keep things on the rails through Washington’s determined attempts – aided and abetted by its schoolyard quislings The United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia – to wreck the Russian economy and cause so much human suffering in Russia that the people would revolt and overthrow their leader. Another humanitarian regime-change effort, brought to you by Shining City On A Hill Incorporated; it is no wonder Kiev continues to try to smash the east of its own country into submission. It knows full well that democracy is just the fig leaf the west uses to screen its loins so nobody will notice that it has a bad sadism habit.

The Russian economy has begun to swing positive again; the MICEX is up 17.97% on the year to date (the NYSE is up 2.48% over the same period). The ruble gained 22.3% between February and April of this year and is currently the world’s best-performing currency.

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That might not be a long-term trend, and the World Bank moans in agony that Russia risks a two-year recession; but Vladimir Putin, the Russian Federation’s president and Time Magazine readers' pick for Most Influential Person of 2015, has good reason to look back in satisfaction over the past year or so. Under his leadership, Russia has outmaneuvered the clumsy west at every turn – showing it up as having not only feet of clay, but a head of cheese.

And the best part, I’m sure – from Putin’s viewpoint – is that the west has brought it all upon itself, stubbornly insisting on taking the most damaging course every time over the protests of many who could see what was going to happen, but could only close their eyes and brace for the crash. The Lord of the Flies writ large – a triumph of idiots.

Severstal Steel of Cherepovets, we learn, has posted its best profits in six years this quarter, on record output; Severstal plans to hire 2000 new workers this year to add to its 52,000 workforce. How’s U.S. Steel doing? Oh, dear – not so well, I’m afraid; U.S. steel plants are on a layoff spree, which they blame on China flooding the world with artificially cheap steel. If true, it seems not to have hurt the Russian industry, which is right next door.

It strikes me that failure to get China into some sort of partnership before making a grab for Ukraine was a singularly bad example of planning on the west’s part, not to mention its subsequent antagonism of China so as to inspire and nurture a Sino-Russian partnership.

Just to put the icing on the cake, the article complains about the surging dollar and low energy prices, both of which the U.S. government eagerly sought as part of its latest master plan and cheered, early on, as examples of its strategic brilliance and global clout. As U.S. steel exports languish, BRICS partners China and Brazil saw surging exports. Ever heard the expression, “Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is a bastard child”? Who will respond with “It was my idea” to the question Who thought it was a good plan to start a trade war with a raw-materials giant?”

Why do so many cheer Washington’s doing an embarrassing faceplant? Because it has transformed since the 1950s from a Force For Good to a Force For Its Own Good, somewhere along the way turning into a bully that forces its values on others where it can and introducing regime change and false-flag manipulations where it cannot.

Let me go on record here that it is unfortunate Americans – who, by and large, are decent people who normally wish nobody harm and like to mind their own business – must suffer the consequences of their grotesquely unpopular government.

But nobody can pretend any longer not to know what is really going on; not with the plenitude of alternative news sites which cover what the mainstream media won’t touch, not with the admission at various times of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and – more recently – French Intelligence that Kiev is not fighting the Russian Army in Ukraine.

The myth of “Russian Aggression” is just another hateful buzzword, like “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” formulated to pressure a gullible public’s go-along, simply because nobody wants to be seen as for it. There are some Russians in Ukraine, yes, and it would hardly be surprising to learn they were ex-soldiers, considering they come from a country with a conscript military.

But I would like to think that not a few Americans, upon learning the government of the country next door was butchering civilians by indiscriminately firing heavy weapons directly into populated areas, would show up with the modern equivalent of the squirrel gun to even the playing field.

Such Russians as are in Eastern Ukraine are not there in an official capacity and have demonstrated no interest whatsoever in overthrowing the Ukrainian government. There is no excuse for not knowing these things – and, knowing them, how could anyone support their continuation?

Something like 78% of Russian companies on the MICEX outstripped their foreign rivals for growth; Severstal’s achievement is not a one-off. Meanwhile, import substitution and a search for new markets continues apace. Gazprom announces a blacklist of over 400 western companies from whom it will no longer purchase metal or engineering products unless it absolutely cannot find a domestic or non-western producer. Belarusian and Moldovan companies were eager to cooperate, contributing to a potential $2.5 Billion in lost orders for western companies.

On the agricultural front, U.S. food exports to Russia slumped, threatening a $1 Billion loss over the year’s ban, while Canadian pork producers squealed in dismay at a potential half-billion in losses, right on the heels of Canadian pork executives’ visit to their third-largest market to attempt to boost sales. The ban is only for a year, but kiss those markets gone, baby, gone, because by the time the ban lapses – if it is not renewed – countries like Argentina will have consolidated the former western share of the market, provided they can keep up with business demand that saw beef exports alone from Argentina more than quadruple year over year, up 543%.

The auto market in Russia was a slaughterhouse, but American brands suffered a particularly gory bloodbath; nearly all vendors experienced losses – although Mercedes, BMW and Lexus all saw gains – but sales of Chevrolet fell 74% and Ford 78%, while sales of the GM-owned Opel brand plummeted a staggering 86% just in February alone, year over year. Nine of the ten top-selling models are locally produced.

But the Russian auto market is forecast to return to 2012 levels between this year and 2017. Careful marketing will net some companies, probably Asian, a powerful and dominant market share of the modest-income midsize market…but I doubt very much they will be American or British.

Despite the low oil prices, sanctions, and the provocations and constant vilification in the western press, Russia just puts its head down and keeps on keeping on, undeterred by the playground antics and clamoring for attention from its declared enemies. But when the dust of this settles, it will likely be remembered who went out of their way to stitch it up – the United States, the UK, Canada, and Australia. Probably, thanks to the disgraceful betrayals of Merkel, Germany as well to some degree. Others might be forgiven on the grounds that they were just dragged along by the pace of events and the demands of their allies.

I saw Bryan Adams perform the little tune that kicked off this post in the new Metro Centre Arena in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He wasn’t a really big name then the way he is now – he had one album out, “Cuts Like a Knife,” which is still one of his best – and he was the opening act for the headliners, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts; it was the first concert in the Metro Center. Halfway through the song, he let the band kind of percolate behind him as he injected a little story – probably made up – about the cheating girlfriend who had treated him like dirt and now wanted a second chance. He paused for a moment, and roared, “…and I said, F***K…YOU!!!!” as the crowd screamed its approval.

I wonder who will be singing “take me back, won’t ya?” in a year or two on the geopolitical stage? I know who it won’t be. And the likely response.

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