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Friday, August 08, 2008

EDITORIAL: Russia, Imploding Once Again


Russia, Imploding Once Again

As shown in the chart above, as the price of oil has plummeted to a three-month low and Russian "prime minister" Vladimir Putin has issued yet another crazy, unhinged attack on a major Russian business entity (last time oil major YUKOS, this time steel major Mechel) , in the last three weeks the Russian stock market has lost 18% of its total value, matching a drop in the price of oil (from $145 to $120) jot for jot. In the last six weeks, it's down a shocking 25% from record highs around 2,400 on the RTS Index. The market was down 3.7% last Tuesday alone as it shuddered under the impact of falling oil prices.

The Russian stock market is being bled white. Indeed, one has to wonder if Putin isn't somehow intimidated by growth in the market and the creation of wealth beyond his control that it implies, and whether he isn't just as pleased as Stalin was to see a crippled nation groveling at his feet. After all, it's so much more difficult to govern healthy, vigorous, wealthy people.

And yet, crude oil is still selling at stratospheric prices in excess of $100 a barrel, and crude oil is Russia's bread and butter. If Russia had any kind of economic fundamentals, its stock market ought to be charging ahead. It's not, and that's because Russia has no economic fundamentals at all. It's a crude, third-world dictatorship governed by a proud KGB spy, a relic of a failed state with no training or experience in business, economics or social policy (much less democracy). The Russian market tracks the price of oil so precisely because the price of oil is the only thing standing between the price of oil and apocalypse.

In short, if the price of oil were not artificially inflating the Kremlin's economic performance, we could very well be witnessing a major depression in Russia, followed by the fourth major collapse of the Russian state in the past century. The recent spike price in oil is quite simply a disaster for Russia, because it has finally given the West the incentive it needs to aggressively seek out alternative fuels; the Kremlin's rabid hostility to the West combined with the huge price surges has made the world wake up from its stupor and begin to wean itself from oil dependence. As time goes on, Russia's oil stocks will both deplete and marginalize, and the Russian economy will degenerate into anarchy.

How could it be otherwise? By what twisted, neo-Soviet logic do Russians imagine that they can be successfully governed by the KGB? What possible credential or qualifications could Putin have to address complicated economic issues? Isn't it clear that the priorities of a KGB spy are irreconcilable with the prosperity of a modern nation? Isn't it obvious he will simply divert the nation's resources towards oppression and world domination instead of dealing with pressing social issues and creating a vibrant economy, in other words that he'll behave just as Stalin did, with the same results?

What is happening in Russia today is unprecedented in human history. Russians watched a KGB regime ruin their country, butchering millions of Russians, destroying the civilian economy and causing the collapse and dissolution of the USSR. Then, when the dust settled, they blithely turned the reins of power right back over to the KGB.

Below, we report that a Russian judge has recently ruled that not only is sexual harassment of female workers by male superiors legal in Russia, it's to be encouraged. Russia is already one of the most corrupt societies on the face of the earth, as rated by Transparency International and a host of other international experts, and things are getting even worse. We then report on Russia expelling one of its leading investors, on the world-famous anti-Soviet dissident who supported Putin's KGB regime and betrayed his whole life's work, and on the barbaric antics of those who claim to lead but in fact act more like savage children. And that's just one day's news!

Russia is disintegrating before our eyes and, just as has been the case in the past, the people of Russia will not lift a finger to stop it.

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