Buying Dollars No Way to Stop: Russian Finance Ministry Purchasing Foreign Currency at Record Pace in Aftermath of Putin’s Announcements
Alexander Pirozhkov Delovoi Peterburg
May 10, 2018
As of today, the Russian Finance Ministry will be buying dollars at a record pace over the next four weeks. It will spend a total of ₽323 billion on these deals during the period. Since the start of the year, the Finance Ministry has spent nearly ₽3 billion on replenishing its foreign currency reserves. If we take into last year’s transactions, it has spent a total of ₽1.8 trillion.
High oil prices have made it possible to buy up foreign currency aggressively. This week, the price of Brent crude jumped above $76 a barrel, its highest price in three and a half years. Russian Urals crude, which is traded at a discount of several percentage points to Brent, exceeded $70 a barrel. The price rise has continued for several months, producing a huge surplus in the federal budget (₽344.35 billion in the first quarter of 2018), since budget revenues had been planned based on a Urals price of $40 a barrel. Thanks to favorable trends in extractive resources markets, both President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev cheerfully announced earlier this week that finding an additional ₽8 trillion to implement the president’s so-called May decree would not be a problem.
In turn, oil prices have been conquering new heights not only due to the efforts of OPEC and the countries allied to it. Quoted prices for black gold flew up an additional five to seven dollars thanks to statements by US President Donald Trump, who has been trying to dissolve the nuclear deal with Iran while blaming OPEC for high oil prices on his Twitter acccount for appearance’s sake. The US’s exit from the nuclear deal means sanctions cancelled under the previous US leader, Barack Obama, would be reintroduced against Iran, thus removing from the market, according to various estimates, 500,000 to 700,000 barrels of Iranian oil a day.
While Trump has been bending over backwards to give the Russian economy a leg up, Putin has spoken of the need to “untie” it from the US dollar in order to boost economic sovereignty. Perhaps these are mere words, not backed by real intentions, especially since they are at odds with the Finance Ministry’s actions. However, Iran itself earlier took certain steps in the same direction as it faced the threat of renewed sanctions. There is a risk the example of our Middle Eastern neighbor will prove contagious.
Translated by the Russian Reader. Image courtesy of Business Eye
Is Russia’s political reality really all that complex?
Why, if the US is filled with teenagers who can take the stage at a massive rally on the Mall in DC and make inspiring, cogent, coherent speeches, do we need the incoherent, politically feckless, thrift-store surrealism of the Novosibirsk Monstrations?
If we can either impeach Trump, pin him down with a crippling special investigation or, finally, simply fail to renominate or reelect him, why do we need to explain him away or even explain him at all?
What is the difference between Trump and “the phenomenon of Trump”?
If, nevertheless, well-paid, tenured academics force us to explain this “phenomenon,” why can’t we refer to bigots and Russian agents? Are they mere figments of our imagination?
Who does a better job of “demonizing” Russia?
People trying to explain away the phenomenon of Trump?
(By the way, why isn’t it “the Trump phenomenon”? Is “the phenomenon of Trump” more culanthically correct?)
Or are the true demonizers the Putin regime itself, a regime that has been quite demonstrably engaged in setting a new land speed record in sheer gangster nastiness at home and abroad at least since 2014, although we know they started much, much earlier (i.e., when Putin was deputy mayor of Petersburg in the early and mid nineties, and served as Mayor Anatoly Sobchak’s bag man and liaison with dicey “foreign investors” and local gangsters)? // TRR
Such is the secret of the trendy “third position” in Russian and Russophile “anti-authoritarian leftism”: to side with nobody but other third positionists, to hover high above Moscow, Peterburg, Crimea, Donetsk, Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta or, in this case, the Berkley Hills like angels of history. God forbid the third positionists should ever do something so rash as actually organize a real anti-war movement explicitly and loudly opposed to the Kremlin’s predations in Ukraine, Syria, and elsewhere.
One, it would involve a lot of needless work.
Two, it could get the third positionists, otherwise accustomed to a heavy schedule of jetsetting from academic conference to art residency to speaking engagement, into a lot of hot water. They definitely do not want to go to prison for any reason, unlike those careless antifascists from Penza and Petersburg, about whom the third positionists mostly have nothing to say, unsurprisingly.
(Russian and Russophilic third positionism requires its adepts to refrain from criticizing Russia’s foreign and domestic policy catastrophes and crimes as much as humanly possible. People who, on the contrary, criticize the current Russian regime’s actions loudly and often are labeled “liberals” and “Russophobes,” the worst words imaginable in the third positionist vocabulary.)
Three, it would mean the third positioniks would have to give up their firmly held conviction, which they share with Vladimir Putin, Alexander Dugin, and Vyacheslav Surkov et al., that all the evil in the world originates solely in the United States and that, however hamfisted and controversial its actions, Russia has only been reacting to the miseries deliberately visited on it by American unilateral imperialism and neoliberalism.
Russophile leftists lap this spiked rhetorical gravy up like hound dogs who have not been fed for a week, so the invitations to appear at conferences and contempory art hootenanies, and contribute essays to “politicized” art mags and cutting-edge scholarly journals keep pouring in. After all, it is what really matters in life, not Syrian children, blasted to smithereens by Russian bombs, or hapless Crimean Tatars, rotting in Russian prisons because they are too stupid to know what is good for them.
What the so-called Russian liberals, quoted in this New York Times article about how the continuing “fever” provoked by alleged Russian involvement in the 2018 US presidential election has been harming their mostly nonexistent cause by making Putin seem more powerful and craftier than he actually is, forget is that the United States is a democratic republic, all its obvious faults notwithstanding, not a kleptocratic tyranny, where the high crimes and misdemeanors imputed to the Kleptocrat in Chief and his cronies are never investigated, except by Alexei Navalny and the occasional journalist, and then only halfheartedly, because there is no division of powers in Putinist Russia and thus no independent judiciary, prosecutors or police investigators, not to mention the absence of an independent legislative branch.
So, the Ozero Dacha Co-op is free to run the country like a mafia gang running northern New Jersey.
In the US, on the contrary, the legislative branch and the judiciary, along with the relevant law enforcement authorities and intelligence agencies, are simply obliged, because they, too, have sworn to uphold and protect the Constitution, to pursue any and all evidence that the Trump campaign and now the Trump administration has had extensive ties with Russian officials, and that the Kremlin additionally attempted to influence the outcome of the election via active measures including the massive manipulation of social networks. They must pursue all this to the bloody end, however long it takes and however much it costs.
To do otherwise would be a dereliction of duty on the part of the sworn high officials who are charged with protecting the Constitution, even if that means protecting it from Don Trump and Vladimir Putin, whom Russian liberals have literally no plan or intention of ever seeing out the door, for his crimes or his wildly incompetent governance.
In the process, our often hysterical and uneven press, as well as everyone and his mother, posting on those selfsame social networks, will have much to say about the whole kit and kaboodle, and much of it will be wrong, worthless, and crazy.
Plus, the whole mess will inevitably be politicized to the hilt, another thing that upsets certain Russians, whose Soviet upbringing and post-Soviet survivalism has made them loathe the hugger-mugger of politics, which is always a hugger-mugger when it’s real, not an epiphenomenon of all-Russian TV brainwashing sessions, whose aftereffects are measured in real time by fake pollsters.
If anything, this little collective five minutes of hate, on the part of so-called Russian liberals whose professions of love and respect for the US sound suspect when encapsulated this way, have only reinforced what I’ve thought for a long time.
There are healthy Russians, and plenty of them, who are more concerned with their families, jobs, hobbies, neighbors, and politics in their own country and neighborhood, etc., but the so-called Russian elites and the so-called Russian intelligentsia are obsessed with the US in a way that most Americans (believe me, I’ve been around the big block several times and have noticed very little interest in Russia among the vast majority of my American acquaintances, friends, relatives, coworkers, etc.) are not and never have been, except, perhaps, during the Red Scare, but I wasn’t there to witness it, and I suspect it was more of an elite phenomenon than a grassroots thing.
The Russian most obsessed with the US is, of course, Vladimir Putin. He’s so obsessed that he persuaded himself that the 2011–2012 popular protests against his regime were personally engineered, launched, and steered by Hillary Clinton and the US State Department.
So, given the chance to get back at his number one enemy in the US, he did what he could.
This doesn’t necessarily mean his influence won the election for Trump or was even crucial. But throwing up our hands and saying it ultimately doesn’t matter would be irresponsible. We have to know or at least find out as much as we can about what really was done and by whom, and if we have evidence that high officials committed crimes in connection with this alleged conspiracy, they must be prosecuted, tried and, if found guilty, punished.
There is also the matter of less powerful Russians than Putin, folks like the ones quoted in the article, who can discuss US politics until they are blue in the face (I’ve been around that big block, too, many times, and have witnessed this “political self-displacement” on many occasions). Part of the reason for this is that (or so such people think) there is no politics to discuss in Russia. Or no reason to discuss Russian politics. Or every reason not to discuss Russian politics because doing it too loudly and publicly might get you in trouble.
They talk about the US so much you would be forgiven for thinking that many of them are certain, often to the point of arrogance, that they know more about the US and everything American than Americans themselves.
What they do less and less often is discuss their own country, partly because they have all but reconciled themselves to the “fact,” without putting up a fight (the only possible exception among the folks quoted in the article is Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s righthand man) that Putin will essentially re-elect himself to a fourth term as president in March 2018, and so on till kingdom comes.
This article is a bill of goods, and we don’t have to buy it. I would love to find out why Andrew Higgins was moved to write it, and why so many talkative, opinionated Russians think they bear no responsibility for letting their “powerless” president do whatever he pleases whenever he pleases.
Maybe they should work harder on that for a few years and forget about the US and its signal failings. Let the real Americans handle those, however muckily and gracessly they go about it. It’s their country, after all.
I’m certain such a live-and-let-live approach to the US would make Russian grassroots and liberal politics more exciting and productive. TRR
“In 2015, for instance, St. Petersburg hosted one of the most outspoken gatherings of far-right ideologues Europe has seen in years. With speakers rotating across the dais, a pair of Americans—Jared Taylor and Sam Dickson—railed against Washington’s turn toward civil rights and racial equality. Taylor, a man Spencer himself has cited as inspiration for his political baptism into white nationalism, and a man who recorded robocalls on behalf of Trump during the campaign, joined Dickson, erstwhile lawyer for the Ku Klux Klan, as the latter praised Putin for encouraging high birthrates among white Russians. The organization pulling the Americans to the conference was itself an outgrowth of a Russian party founded by Dmitry Rogozin, Moscow’s deputy prime minister.”
Eurasianist leader and self-confessed fascist Alexander Dugin had something he wanted to say to you about Donald Trump and the US presidential elections.
Dugin and his voiceover artists’ delivery and (unintentional) self-parody reminded me of the Second City Television (SCTV) episode in which the lowly Melonville station’s signal is temporarily blocked and taken over by “CCCP1, Russian Television.”
But that was meant to be funny. And it was also meant to parody not so much the actual Soviet Union (although it did a little of that, too, especially in its prescient “vilification” of “Uzbeks”) as it did North American Cold War attitudes and stereotypes of the Soviet Union.
Now what begun as high farce has returned as . . . I wanted to say tragedy, but it’s really the most vulgar of comedies. It’s definitely not funny anymore, though, whatever the real or imagined connections between the Fascist Pig in the Poke and the Kremlin.
Thanks to Comrade Maximum for the heads-up on the Dugin video. TRR
It’s embarrassing to brag about what a good day I’ve been having when I’m supposed to be all bummed out about the Fascist Pig-Elect’s taking the oath to become the plain old Fascist Pig in the Poke, but it’s true.
I don’t quite get it, but things have been going my way all day.
For example, I lucked out while shopping this afternoon at our neighborhood Auchan hypermarket. They were having a sale on $10,000 packs of hundred dollar bills: 67 rubles 39 kopecks a pop!
I guess Auchan knows something the rest of us don’t know about what’s going to happen to the mighty US dollar when the Fascist Pig in the Poke starts implementing his “economic policies.”
So Auchan decided to unload the wads of US cash they had lying round the store while they were still worth something, even if it was only 67.39 rubles.
Good on them, as the Aussies say.
By sheer coincidence, when my true love came home from work he presented me with a new, totally recyclable wallet, made from a synthetic material called Tyvek. It weighs next to nothing, but now I’ll have somewhere to keep my nearly worthless $10,000 safe.
And it’s embossed with images of Imperial stormtroopers!
If you’ve seen the terrific new Star Wars movie, Rogue One, the best Star Wars movie in 39 years, you’ll know it’s a very timely tale about what happens when ordinary people resist an emergent fascist government: they all get killed.
Let me repeat that. The shameless scapegoating of the US, usually in the demonic guise of the “Gosdep,” the US State Department, has been going on at all levels of Russian government, mainstream media, and society for many, many years.
It’s actually been going on in certain circles since the mid 1990s. I remember once watching a “documentary” on the local cable access channel back then outlining the CIA’s alleged plan to turn Russian youth onto hard drugs.
So why haven’t we heard much of anything about this long-running, utterly baseless “red-white-and-blue scare” or “permanent scare”? (I don’t know what else to call it. If you have a better suggestion, let me know).
The scare has claimed lots of real victims, including dozens of Russian NGOs, most of them doing invaluable, irreplaceable work for their own people, not for the Gosdep, on shoestring budgets in terrible conditions, who have been branded “foreign agents” by the Russian Justice Ministry. Many of them have been forced to close up shop or go into exile because they weren’t able to deal with the heavy fines, court hearings, and endless inspections.
But we now have a US president-elect who took literally every opportunity he could during the campaign to gush over Putin and his “strong” leadership. Yet this fact alone—Trump’s flagrant, overt support for a war criminal, crook, and tyrant who has crushed civil society and political opposition in his own country—didn’t automatically disqualify Trump from consideration for the highest office in the land.
Let’s pretend that all the recent skullduggery around Trump isn’t true in the slightest. Would it make any difference?
Trump said time and again that Putin was his idol. Let’s take him at his word and oppose him, among the thousand other reasons we should oppose him, for that huge, steaming, glaring, stinking chunk of very bad, very telling judgment and, more important, not show him the slighest sympathy for the “hard” time he has recently been getting from the press, the White House, the intelligence community, and so on.
He deserves as good as he dishes outs, and what he has been dishing out for the last two years is pure, destructive fascist evil. That will remain true whether the Kremlin hacked anything or slapped together some kompromat on him or it didn’t do anything of the sort.
Trump doesn’t deserve a fair deal for the simple reason that he doesn’t want a fair deal for so many of his fellow Americans and lots of other people, starting with the Mexicans. Let’s treat him like the enemy he is instead of inadvertently defending him and Putinist tyranny to boot by conjuring up equally nonexistent “CIA coups” and God knows what else. TRR
I was just unfriended on Facebook by an actual friend and comrade, and a person for whom I have boundless respect. Apparently, I said too many bad things in electronic print about their chosen candidate for president, Dr. Jill Stein of the US Green Party.
Pro-Putinism of the Steinerian or Trumpian variety should be a make-or-break issue if you call yourself a democrat, a leftist, a left-liberal, an anti-imperialist, an anti-fascist, a progressive, pro-labor, pro-human rights, a pacifist, a democratic socialist, a socialist, a communist, a liberal, a republican or (in fact) a conservative.
On the merits of his now very long stint in office, Putin should appeal only to extreme right-wingers, dyed-in-the-wool fascists, neo-Nazis, racists, and massively deluded fundamentalist Christians (because Putin isn’t actually spearheading a worldwide revival of “conservative Christian values”; he is just using the Church and the churchly to advance his own personal and political ends), as well as members of various organized criminal groups around the world, who probably can’t help admiring how a “party of crooks and thieves” have taken over an entire country, the world’s largest, and started running it like the mob runs a chunk of turf on the Jersey shore.
Oh yes, and Bashar Assad loves Putin. And Silvio Berlusconi does, too.
So this is a US presidential election in which all the choices are very bad? Then please, at least don’t imagine one of the candidates has qualities she really doesn’t have, and please don’t whitewash or blatantly ignore her glaring deficiencies.
Being “soft” on Putin is a damning quality, because it means (as has become clear from Dr. Stein’s limp, weasel-worded response to the open letter written by the brave, exiled Russian environmentalists Yevgeniya Chirikova and Nadezhda Kutepova) you feel no solidarity with the thousands, hundreds of thousands, and maybe even millions of Russians who have either fought back against Putin’s seventeen years of tyranny or suffered very badly from it.
It also means you have funny ideas about “effective leadership,” as Trump seems to have. Just as Trump is probably no great shakes at “business,” his idol Putin is actually a crummy politician when it comes to implementing any of the things held dear by the sort of people, who occupy most of the known political spectrum, I listed above. In fact, he is slowly leading his country to economic, social, moral, environmental, industrial, aesthetic, and ideological ruin.
Or it means you have funny ideas about “world peace” and “imperialism.” Meaning, you think only the US, NATO, and EU are imperialists, while Russia, China, the other BRICS countries, and more or less the rest of the world are, mysteriously and without having done much of anything to merit the merit badge, “anti-imperialists.”
I am going to go out on a limb and say (without arguing the point further here) that while Russia has the most going for it in terms of natural and human resources, it is the BRICS country least likely to succeed because of its ruinous, criminal governance. I have more confidence that South Africa and India will turn things around than I do Russia will.
And China has lots of “negatives,” as they say about the candidates these days, but despite them I never get the sense the country is run by haughty criminal lunatics. Or maybe the Chinese Communist Party are haughty and corrupt sometimes, but they seem to have a plan of sorts and are capable of rational thought and acting collectively (and dictatorially) to advance rational interests, whether or not those rational interests are ones their own people or the people of Hong Kong or Taiwan or we ourselves would approve.
When a candidate is soft on Putin, it doesn’t mean she or he is unqualified to lead the US military-industrial complex or “advance our country’s interests” by attacking countries no one asked us to attack.
It just means they’re hopelessly stupid. TRR
Apropos the article below. Pobrecitos! Thank God no one in Russia has been trying to tarnish the image of the US or its less-than-effective president. That would be so uncool. Image of the label for Abama craft beer, produced by a microbrewery in Putin’s hometown of Petersburg, courtesy of Comrade EO
Putin Talks of Attempt to Recreate “Evil Empire” Image in US Elections
Olga Nadykto and Polina Khimshiashvili RBC
September 17, 2016
Using the topic of Russia and the Russian president in the US presidential campaign is an attempt to manipulate public opinion within the country, said Vladimir Putin. According to him it is an attempt to “recreate the image of an evil empire.”
Speaking to journalists at the end of the CIS summit in Bishkek, Russian President Vladimir Putin commented on the use of Russian topics in the US election campaign.
Putin expressed the hope that the “use of Russia and the Russian president” in the US election campaign was “was also due to Russia’s growing influence and significance.”
“But I think it is mainly due to attempts to manipulate public opinion within the country. We are witnessing an attempt to recreate the image of the so-called evil empire and scare the average citizen. It is quite sad. It is a fairly crude attempt and counterproductive,” said the Russian president [sic].
Replying to a question about which of the candidates he supported in the US presidential elections, Putin said he had “nothing new” to say.
“We support anyone in any country who wants to work towards neighborly relations and partnerships with us,” he stressed.
“We are sympathetic to those who speak out publicly about the need to build relations with Russia on an equal basis and see a lot of sense in this for their country,” Putin concluded.
Earlier, on the NBC program Commander-in-Chief Forum, Donald Trump, the US Republican Party presidential candidate, said of the Russian president, “If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him.”
Trump also predicted he would have “very, very good relations” with Putin if he became president.
Trump’s statement was criticized by US President Barack Obama, who supports the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Clinton herself had earlier accused the Russian secret services in the attacks on the Democratic Party’s servers. She has also commented on an article in the Washington Post, claiming that Russia was possibly planning to disrupt the US elections. She said it was a serious threat that had to be eliminated quickly.
Some leftists think that Donald Trump will be better in foreign policy terms than Hillary. They’re right. By their standards, by their principles, Trump will be better.
Trump opposes the war in Afghanistan not because he cares one bit about the lives of Afghans, but rather because he cares nothing about the lives of Afghans. If you can’t understand that difference, you’re already lost.
Trump wants to follow Obama’s lead and work closer with Russia, combined with working closer with Assad in Syria—in fact, in his own words, he wants to let Russia and Iran ‘protect’ Syria from what he calls ‘ISIS’, by which he means all the Syrian rebels. He wants to let Assad, Russia and Iran destroy the rebels and ISIS. That’s his actual policy.
Trump would never have lifted one finger to aid Libyans facing extermination from Gaddafi’s air force, saying that things would be ‘100% better off if Gaddafi was still in charge of Libya’.
Trump would recognise Crimea as Russian territory and lift sanctions on Russia, effectively abandoning Ukrainians to the will of the Vladimir Putin.
All of these things are perfectly in line with the principles of much of The Left. The difference is that they dress up their demented, barbarous, counter-revolutionary and conservative isolationism in progressive garb, such as by conjuring always so very abstractly and incoherently the lives of brown people—the entirely fantastical ‘NATO destruction of Libya’, the idea that the main problem in Syria is non-existent ‘western intervention’, etc., etc. They completely ignore the actualities of the lives of these people and they often tacitly or explicitly support the forces that are actually to blame for the monstrous hardships that these people face.
But they, like Trump, care nothing for the lives of Syrians or Libyans—they too want Russia and Iran to be given free reign to ‘protect’ Syria (this is Jeremy Corbyn’s position and very similar to Bernie Sanders, never mind the barrel bomb pacifist Jill Stein).
The truth is that Trump would be good for the barbaric principles of much of the actually existing Left. His conservative isolationism and his support for Russian imperialism is merely bereft of a phoney humanitarian aspect.
My thanks to Mr. Hamad for his kind permission to reprint this essay here. TRR