Putin’s Russia: On the Tipping Point of Economic/Political Instability!
Russia is like And Quiet Flows the Don [River] ”—quiet on the surface but turbulent below. When one discusses Russia, whether it be peace or war, one must always remember that this is not just a country but an entity replete with a rich texture of civility, angst, and civil wars. Nothing about Russia is simple. Remember it is composed of eleven highly varied time zones spanning both Europe and Asia. It is not about one particular demagogue replacing another one. That is a narrative that is bereft of a deep appreciation of 20th Century Russian history.
I have to go back to a book, which I read at my mother’s behest, entitled And Quiet Flows the Don by Nobel Prize winner Mikhail Sholokhov. The book contains four volumes depicting the history of the famous [or infamous] Cossacks who lived on the Don River –their lives and loves [without love there is no Russian novel]—during the First Word War. The author follows several Cossack families through their trials and tribulations during the Bolshevik Revolution and the subsequent Civil War which lasted for over a decade [contrary to popular images]. The book describes the pains and sorrows of the Russian people during a time of political repression and economic starvation, much like today.
The irony of the book’s title is quite apparent.
As the Don River flows quietly and majestically like Russia itself, beneath the placid waters are the turbulent currents of impending history—much like Putin’s present stance of impending suppression of his own people. Why do I call Putin’s actions ‘impending’ when in fact, we are beginning to see the elimination of free speech and the congregation of protestors? Russia is now on a tipping point of economic instability accompanied by social unrest.
As I have written for over a year, Russia’s economy is evaporating at a far faster rate than I would have predicted even in one of my more somber blogs. In fact, the financial picture is bleak. Eighty-three different regions are approaching bankruptcy. Their banks have no more liquidity to service their clients. Foreign investments have dropped by a staggering fifty percent [unofficially –far more]. Close to 200 Billion USDs fled the country, placing thousands of local Russian banks on the brink of a major financial collapse.
Without exaggeration, Greece literally pales in comparison to the problems that Russia is facing economically as oil continues to drop below $50 USD per barrel. The problem is that neither Putin nor his Kremlin coterie of security sycophants have any idea as to which financial instruments to use to attempt a correction of the ‘impending’ financial disaster. They are not economists. Nor are they requesting the help of more advanced western countries to try and implement a drastic fiscal program to avoid the aforementioned problems.
Between Putin’s personal arrogance and inherent ignorance, he has resorted to the only instruments of financial and political control that he has been taught and knows---suppression of potential Russian protestors. Putin will use the hammer to knock down any regional financial problems instead of employing the incredible intellect available to him throughout Russia and the surrounding countries in Western Europe [especially Germany and the northern tier nations]. He will beat the protestors in place of resolving an imminent financial catastrophe that has been long in the making thanks to Putin’s avarice for wealth and fame.That is not an outcome that I or any other caring friend of Russia would wish on these brave people who have suffered more than any other during WWII and the aftermath.
Yet as the Don flows quietly… and no protests have erupted, but Putin knows all too well that below the surface of a placid country lies the phoenix of discontent that has erupted continuously from the very first days of the 20th Century, from the time of Czar Nicholas to Stalin and onto the dissolution of the Soviet Union—followed by more turbulence and political chicanery.
When I was personally involved in the regime change in the Soviet Union, I had reaffirmed to my colleagues in our National Security apparatus, that we changed only the face of the Russia people.. but we had done nothing to change the admirable suffering Russia people themselves.
And so, I write to you all, my Russia friends, whom I admire for your stalwart nature; your tolerance for suffering but enough is enough.
Never forget that the Don River flows quietly through much of Mother Russia but beneath its smooth surface it is exceedingly turbulent. Let’s wait and see which way the river flows, into Moscow or away from it. It is far beyond credulity to see eighty-three regions fall mercilessly into the river because one man did not know how to navigate The Quiet Don!
Please remember the words of our great Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy, who wrote the following:
“Not believing in force is the same as not believing in gravity.”
All the best!