Well, Now We've Seen Everything
As if Russia had not already plunged far enough through the neo-Soviet looking glass and into the pigsty of self-delusion and destruction, two events last week make us think perhaps that now we've seen it all from the Russians. Anything after this can only be anticlimax.
First, a senile old goat who calls himself a "general" and just happens to have his finger near Russia's nuclear button belched out some fanatical ravings in which he boasted that Russia wouldn't hesitate to be the first to use nukes in the event of armed conflict. Apparently, he thought he was intimidating Russia's enemies, but what he actually was doing was confirming the utter impotency of Russia's conventional military forces and the total barbarity of Russia's leadership, inducing Russia's enemies to redouble their efforts to protect themselves. Only a Russian can accomplish such intense self-destructive stupidity in such a short space of time.
But that was just an appetizer. For the main course, as the Moscow Times reported, Russia announced that " if Britain resumed cooperation with the Federal Security Service and expressed a willingness to ease visa rules for Russians." Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Krivtsov stated that "everything started when the British refused to hold talks to simplify the visa regime and stopped cooperation with the FSB. After that, talks about the status of the British Council became impossible. That means conditions have to be created for the resumption of talks."
In other words, what the Kremlin has done is to openly admit that it is persecuting the British Council in an act of naked neo-Soviet foreign policy blackmail. But the Kremlin seems to have forgotten that it's told the people of Russia that the British Council is operating "illegally" (just as it accused Mikhail Khodorkovsky of doing), and that it is only enforcing the law. In fact, the Kremlin has openly accused the Council of harboring spies. This word has gone out across the country to the Kremlin's minions, who have been repeating it like a mantra across the blogosphere. The Kremlin's statement has just cut the legs out from under them, and destroyed even the absurd illusion that the Kremlin was acting pursuant to the rule of law. Just think of the precedent: If Russia is entitled to do this to Britain, then the world is entitled to do it to Russia. A weak, sick nation, Russia's only defense from such action was to claim the moral high ground. Now, that's gone out the window. Nice job, Mr. Putin. Way to protect your country!
Essentially, the Kremlin seems to be saying it's just fine if the British Council goes on spying and breaking Russian law, as long as the British government drops the Litvinenko prosecution. In other words, it's admitting that Russia is a banana republic.
The chart above is a snapshot of the Russian stock market, showing that in the four business days between January 16th and January 21st (last Monday, its worst trading day in 18 months) it lost over 17% of its value, dropping breathtakingly below the 2000 level before recovering slightly. The reason for this drop is that, despite Russian's energy resources and the skyrocketing world market for them, the Russian economy is fundamentally weak and totally subservient to those world markets. The U.S. market has tanked, and taken Russia's market right along with it. If Russians are cheering the U.S. losses, and they are, they are cheering their own demise. If Americans can't buy huge quantities of crude oil, the price of that commodity will collapse. If it does, Russia's entire house-of-cards economy will come down. Apparently, Russian fairy tale heritage doesn't include the story of the goose that laid the golden egg. Either that, or Russia is simply a nation of morons.
Amazingly, it's actually the Kremlin's policy to provoke and alienate the markets upon which it depends utterly even more than they already are, just as the USSR always used to provoke the countries that supplied the grain necessary to cover its shortfalls and keep its threadbare population alive.
There's only one word for that policy: Crazy.
There's simply no way, not in their wildest dreams, that Russia's so-called "enemies" (remember, Russians thought Solzhenitsyn was one, and Sakharov, and Pushkin . . .) could ever inflict a fraction of the damage upon Russia that the Russian people themselves, and their designated leaders, can deliver. Ever more cut off from the outside world, just like the famous Emperor with his "new clothes," the Russian people are dooming their children do a life of woe.
That is, if they have any life at all.