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Streetwise Professor

April 22, 2009

I Was очень Bearish on the Bear Before It Was Fashionable

Filed under: Economics,Energy,Financial crisis,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 1:42 pm

The IMF World Economic Outlook makes extremely dispiriting reading.  Especially for Russia.  The IMF completes the trifecta of major international organizations (after the World Bank and OECD) to revise sharply downwards its prognostication for Russian economic growth.  (SWP paging Bob!  SWP paging Bob!)  Indeed, Russia is the champ, according to IMF.  That is, the IMF reduced its estimate of growth for every country, but the reduction in Russia’s GDP growth forecast was the largest, at -5.3 percent.  Indeed, the IMF’s forecast of Russian growth is lower than its forecast for any country other than Japan for 2009: IMF estimates that Russian GDP will drop 6 percent, compared to Japan’s decline of 6.2 percent.

Russia is also the champ when one compares 2007 or 2008 growth rates to forecast 2009 growth rates.  Whereas Japan’s growth rate in 2009 is forecast to be 5.6 percentage points below its 2008 growth rate, Russia’s 2009 rate is forecast to be 11.6 percent below.  Comparing 2007 and 2009 growth rates implies a difference of 8.6 percentage points for Japan, and a whopping 14.1 percentage points for Russia.  Say that slowly.  Fourteen point one percentage points.  That’s huge.

An article in the Moscow Times should only deepen the sense of gloom.  The article notes that Russian inflation was 5.8 percent in the first quarter.  This is consistent with another SWP prediction that Russia is mired in a deep stagflation.  The acceleration of inflation at the same time the economy is plunging is deeply troubling, and reflects the forces that I mentioned in some earlier posts, namely, the quite reasonable decision by people to exchange rubles for goods.  I doubt the ruble can maintain its rally under such circumstances.  Unbelievably, though, the government is sticking with its forecast of 13 percent inflation for 2009.  Dudes.  You’re like 45 percent of the way there after 25 percent of the year.  Expecting a dramatic slowdown of inflation is very unrealistic, especially given the seemingly entrenched inflationary expectations among the Russian people.

The head of the Kremlin’s anti-crisis task force, Vladimir Mai channels the SWP theme that Russian policy options are extremely limited, especially given the sharp inflation:

“Inflation limits the tools of our anti-crisis policy. Many measures used in the United States and Europe are not available for us. We cannot carry out quantitative easing, we cannot use budget stimulus and we need to maintain high interest rates,” he said.

Mau fears that renewed growth in commodity prices could stall the modernization drive and bring the government back into a complacency mode that characterized the last years of Vladimir Putin’s presidency.

“During an economic boom, it is impossible to carry out a modernization policy,” he said. “If prices for oil and gas are high, there will be no diversification.”

Translation: “We’re screwed.”

The last paragraph is of particular interest.  The political will for modernization and diversification is lacking in times of economic crisis because the government is in survival mode then.  The political will for modernization and diversification is lacking when the economy is strong due to high oil and gas prices because under such circumstances, who needs modernization?  Laissez les bon temps roullez!  Especially for the kleptocrats.    Where’s the Goldilocks spot?  You know, the one that’s just right to facilitate modernization and diversification?  Uhm, somebody will have to get back to you on that one.

For the foreseeable future, if anybody (now who could that be?) uses the words “nano” and “Russia” in the same sentence, my immediate reaction will be to think of the order of magnitude of the probability that Russia will achieve the economic ambitions that harbored a mere six months ago, let alone achieve the fantasy set out in the Russia 2020 pipe dream.

In this environment, Putin’s statements about the economy are delusional.  Beyond delusional.  As are the pursuit of “prestige” projects like Sochi, billion dollar bridges to Godforsaken islands, and large expenditures on new weaponry.

Kudrin may be overly pessimistic in saying that this crisis has set the country back 50 years, but maybe not.   The crisis has derailed for the foreseeable future measures necessary to cope with Russia’s serious long term problems, such as demography and health, and infrastructure.  I hope to write soon on a couple of articles on Russia’s demographic situation, but given that economic growth of the first decade of this millenium led to only a modest decline in Russia’s downward demographic trajectory, there is a serious prospect that the current crisis will eliminate that faint progress, and lead to the return of the apocalyptic trends of the 90s.  Similarly, the prospects for addressing Russia’s serious infrastructure problems are fading fast.  The resulting deterioration in human and physical capital undermines the prospects for long term growth.  Upon consideration, maybe the “stressed” Mr. Kudrin is an optimist.

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31 Comments »

  1. The real question is for how long the easily placated and deluded Russian sheeple stick with Putin. Putin’s corruption and mismanagement are really symptoms of a dysfunctional culture in decline.

    As bad as things are here, considering that we are only three months into team Obama’s mismanagement of the economy and foreign affairs, half of a million Americans have taken it to the streets and some of the political hacks like Dodd, Specter, Reid, Corzine, etc are facing uphill battles for re-election. That list is growing.

    Switch back to Russia where Putin has dismantled in their faces basic civil society rights without a whimper and ask yourself if Putin is simply a symptom of the rot.

    Maybe the best thing that can happen to Russia is a reversion to mass poverty, they seem to wallow well in it, and those that don’t find inspiration at the bottom of a vodka bottle or the literati elite’s shallow histrionics can try again at a civil society.

    Comment by penny — April 22, 2009 @ 7:10 pm

  2. “The crisis has derailed for the foreseeable future measures necessary to cope with Russia’s serious long term problems, such as demography and health, and infrastructure. I hope to write soon on a couple of articles on Russia’s demographic situation, but given that economic growth of the first decade of this millenium led to only a modest decline in Russia’s downward demographic trajectory, there is a serious prospect that the current crisis will eliminate that faint progress, and lead to the return of the apocalyptic trends of the 90s.”

    Good luck with that – unfortunately for bigots like penny (but fortunately for Russia), you’ll have a hard time finding evidence of that on Rosstat (at least up till now).

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — April 22, 2009 @ 9:06 pm

  3. You mean he’ll have a hard time finding evidence in THE KREMLIN’S OWN DATA that shows the Kremlin is ruining Russia? I’m shocked, shocked!

    But, umm, wouldn’t it have been hard, say A FEW SECONDS BEFORE IT COLLAPSED, to find evidence in the USSR’s data that it was ruining Russia? Didn’t the USSR, rather famously, lie? Isn’t Russia’s president a proud KGB spy who spent his whole life learning how to lie and doing it?

    Dude, what freakin’ planet are you on? What are you smoking?

    Meanwhile:

    “According to the U.S. Census Bureau International Data Base for 2007, Russia ranked 164 out of 226 globally in overall life expectancy. Russia is below Bolivia, South America’s poorest (and least healthy) country and lower than Iraq and India, but somewhat higher than Pakistan. For females, the Russian Federation life expectancy will not be as high as in Nicaragua, Morocco, or Egypt. For males, it will be in the same league as that of Cambodia, Ghana, and Eritrea.”

    http://larussophobe.wordpress.com/2009/04/21/drunken-dying-russia/

    That’s right, “mighty” Russia doesn’t rank in the top ONE HUNDRED FIFTY nations of the world for adult lifespan. Spin that one, Mr. Neo-Soviet freak. But wait, let me guess . . . the Kremlin’s data says its doing much better, all the way up at #93, right?

    Keep fiddling while the nation you purport to love incinerates, you hopelessly dishonest maniac.

    Comment by La Russophobe — April 23, 2009 @ 4:29 am

  4. Alexei Kudrin
    Vladimir Mau
    Tatiana Nesterenko

    So now we have not one but THREE high-ranking Russian government officials who are opening admitting that the nation stands at the brink of an economic abyss, milimeters from toppling in with massive budget cuts and begging for foreign loans.

    http://larussophobe.wordpress.com/2009/04/21/editorial-the-bad-news-just-keeps-on-coming-for-the-russian-economy/

    One would like to ask these Russophile blockheads how many Russian government officials need to say so before they will acknowledge something might possibly be wrong. Apparently as long as Putin — a career KGB spy with not one single second’s worth of economics training, much less experience — disagrees, all is right with the world. The same was true of Stalin, of course.

    Comment by La Russophobe — April 23, 2009 @ 4:38 am

  5. Some very interesting data coming out from Russia, globally this was a suckers rally, fundamentally nothing changed, so why the unfounded optimism?. No new data, supporting the fact that the ‘bottom’ had been found. Lets not be coy about the fact that globally, we are in the shitpan so to speak for the next couple of years.

    However (as is usual, Russia is taking it much harder), during the first wave Russia got hit hard on several (actually all fronts) fronts simultaneously (low oil prices, low commodity prices, lack of diversification, investors fleeing, Georgian war etc), and now the second wave seems to be lining up all the right factors for finishing off the job.

    Comment by Bobthebuilder — April 23, 2009 @ 6:00 am

  6. Sublime Oblivion, a “bigot”, hardly, I’m stating the irrefutable obvious that there is a point past which people get the government that they deserve. Russia hasn’t been living behind a communication blackout wall for two decades now. The better educated ones have the tools and information to effect change. They’ve frittered the time away while Putin boxed them back into herded sheep status.

    Comment by penny — April 23, 2009 @ 9:36 am

  7. ***UPDATE***

    Alexei Kudrin
    Vladimir Mau
    Tatiana Nesterenko

    Now make that FOUR top officials. Add Andrei Klepach, who says . . . wait for it . . . that second quarter economic contraction may be TEN PERCENT.

    Yikes. That what the Kremlin will ADMIT to, so what is the real story? Do you dare contemplate it?

    Spin THAT one, Mr. Super Oblious Lord God King Russia Hater. Spin that one.

    Comment by La Russophobe — April 23, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

  8. http://uk.reuters.com/article/marketsNewsUS/idUKLN70444720090423?pageNumber=2

    Comment by La Russophobe — April 23, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

  9. Wow, ты знаешь 1 word of Russian!!!!

    Comment by James — April 23, 2009 @ 2:59 pm

  10. Still routing for that collapse eh? Man your readers are going to be pissed off when it never actually happens =/

    Indeed, the IMF’s forecast of Russian growth is lower than its forecast for any country other than Japan for 2009: IMF estimates that Russian GDP will drop 6 percent, compared to Japan’s decline of 6.2 percent.

    Oh no we’re all doomed! Incoming collapse, this is the worst economic collapse in the history of the world! Putin is going down for good!

    Oh wait, you’re just wrong again (lying or just misinformed, who knows, who cares?) Not only is Russia not even in the bottom 10, but unlike most of the countries listed below (and many advanced economies such as the US and Britain), it actually has a positive growth forecast for 2010.

    Latvia: -12%
    Iceland -10.6%
    Seychelles: -10%
    Botswana: -10%
    Estonia: -10%
    Lithuania: -10%
    Singapore: -9.6%
    Ukraine: -8%
    Ireland: -8%
    Taiwan: -7.4%
    Japan: -6.2%
    Russia: -5.9%
    Germany: -5.6%
    Finland: -5.1%
    Turkey: -5.1%

    Source: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2009/01/weodata/weoselgr.aspx

    Now this is where you try to cover your ass by claiming all those countries don’t count for one reason or another. Please more sky is falling propaganda. It’s hilarious how hard you try to pander to these dunces who orgasm every time they see a negative news story come out of Russia.

    Comment by BobFromCanada — April 23, 2009 @ 3:01 pm

  11. ***UPDATE***

    NEWS FLASH

    PUTIN SOLVES UNEMPLOYMENT PROBLEM

    How you ask? Unemployment data is now a state secret

    http://uk.reuters.com/article/marketsNewsUS/idUKLM10459220090422

    Nobody knows, nobody has to worry! Sheer genius!

    Comment by La Russophobe — April 23, 2009 @ 5:05 pm

  12. Bob, just wondering, do you feel the need to bring up sex because you’re not getting any? If so, maybe you should comment on blogs a bit less and buy a few more flowers (and deodorant).

    Don’t you think it’s a bit odd for you to use such inappropriate sexual language whilst criticizing SWP for putting up
    inappropriate posts?

    Do you really think Russia being the 12th worst peforming economy on the planet right now, according to your own statement, is something Russians can take comfort in? Do you really think Russians can take pride in saying “at least we’re not Botswana”?

    Are you aware that Russia has just admitted TEN PERCENT GDP contraction in the first quarter of 2009 and projected at least that much contraction in the next quarter?

    Are you aware that the Russia has just announced it will keep unemployment data secret on a month-to-month basis
    because it is so bad it might shock the population?

    Are you aware that Russia, unlike “the US and Britain,” doesn’t rank in the top HUNDRED AND FIFTY nations of the world for adult lifespan? Isn’t it possible, given that, that Russia’s dire economic performance is even worse? Are you aware that THIRTY PERCENT budget cuts are predicted by Russia’s Finance Ministry, which will mean even shorter lifespans?

    Bob, you sound to me an awful lot like a Kremlin flunkie, helping to justify Russian failure and avoid reform. That’s the kind of behavior that wiped out the USSR. Why do you hate Russians so much, that you would wish such hardship on them?

    Just wondering.

    Comment by La Russophobe — April 23, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

  13. Bob–

    So good to have you back. Glad that the time off has done so much for your disposition. Spend the entire time sucking lemons?

    Apropos my calling you out–you specifically denigrated my earlier forecasts because World Bank, IMF, etc., made much rosier predictions. Well, they’ve caught up. You going to own up? Are you going to concede the point re my earlier predictions? After all, you are the one who elevated these institutions as the standard. Hoist on your own petard, dude.

    Yes, I should have been more careful in specifying that I was referring specifically to the countries that the IMF considered sufficiently important to list separately in Table 1.1 of Chapter 1 of its report. Of the others you list that are forecast to have lower growth rates that Russia, I specifically mentioned Japan, and Taiwan and (maybe) Singapore are the only countries that have GDPs in hailing distance of Russia.

    Most of the other comparisons I made (e.g., the change in forecasts between reports) were not possible using the link you provided. At least in my quick look at it I couldn’t readily see how to do that. Feel free to add that to your homework. I’ll be glad to review it.

    I should also add that Russia’s tender self-esteem would probably be damaged severely by comparisons with Estonia, Iceland, etc., for a variety of reasons.

    Oh, and Bob–don’t call me a liar again. I resurrected your comment from the spam queue (boy, that Aksimet filter is very perceptive) and posted it despite your slur. I figured it made you look worse than it did me. By a mile.

    And, going back to the point that started our interaction some time back. Man up and admit that by the standard YOU selected–the forecasts of major international economic organizations–the prospects for the Russian economy are very poor, relative to the government’s statements at the time we had our last little discussion, and relative to most major economies in the world. I said Russia was a beta>1 country, and hence would do worse than the rest of the world. You took the opposite view. The World Bank, OECD, and IMF agree with me. You gave them cred before. Why not now?

    And if you think I’m exaggerating: If anything I’m less pessimistic that Kudrin. So, take it up with him.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 23, 2009 @ 5:55 pm

  14. @Loserdope,

    I was responding specifically to SWP’s demographic point.

    And so far (February) mortality is continuing to fall quite rapidly relative to last year (http://www.gks.ru/bgd/free/b09_00/IssWWW.exe/Stg/d03/8-0.htm) – which implies that Russians are not taking to the vodka bottle more than usual, at least for now.

    In fact deaths from alcohol poisoning fell from 3,800 in Jan-Feb 2008, to 3,300 this year. Heck, even suicides stayed at about the same level, which is pretty unusual for recessions.

    This is not to say the situation will not worsen by the summer, in particular I expect the fertility rate to slip. But in the meantime, SWP will, I imagine, have a hard time hunting down evidence for Russia’s imminent crisis-induced demographic apocalypse.

    @penny,

    The reason I think you’re a bigot is the disconnect between your professed concern for the welfare of the Russian people (some of them, anyway, like Khodorkovsky) and your too obvious relish in the unfolding economic situation – and that’s just one example from one thread.

    I understand of course that you have a similar view on me.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — April 23, 2009 @ 6:22 pm

  15. Well, it looks like I am well on my way to winning my bet with Da Russophile. This just in from The Moscow Times:

    “The economy plunged by 9.5 percent in the first three months of 2009 and might contract by 6 percent this year, Deputy Economic Development Minister Andrei Klepach said Thursday, painting a bleaker picture than the government had previously forecast.

    The Economic Development Ministry is now reconsidering its forecast of a 2.2 percent drop in gross domestic product for 2009, Klepach said, calling a recent International Monetary Fund forecast of 6 percent “quite realistic,” Interfax reported.”

    Even Russian state officials are now predicting a decline of at least 6% for the year :)

    Source: http://www.moscowtimes.ru/article/600/42/376549.htm

    Comment by Michel — April 23, 2009 @ 6:45 pm

  16. La Russophobe: Who are you? Go away, and wipe that foam off your mouth please.

    The Professor:
    “Apropos my calling you out–you specifically denigrated my earlier forecasts because World Bank, IMF, etc., made much rosier predictions. Well, they’ve caught up. You going to own up? Are you going to concede the point re my earlier predictions? After all, you are the one who elevated these institutions as the standard. Hoist on your own petard, dude.”

    Are you still pretending that the Russian economy is worse off than the US economy because of these GDP figures? Comparing GDP between an advanced economy like the US and an emerging economy like Russia is ridiculous. Otherwise one might look at the past 7-8 years and think that Russia’s economy was 3 times as healthy as America’s during that boom period. The fact is that emerging economies are inherently more volatile in their cycles. Given the circumstances, Russia is getting hit especially hard, but this is hardly anything out of the ordinary as far as recessions go. As for the US, GDP is only scratching the surface of the problems it faces. In the end this will be looked back on as a deep recession for Russia, and a collapse for the US.

    Yes, I should have been more careful in specifying that I was referring specifically to the countries that the IMF considered sufficiently important to list separately in Table 1.1 of Chapter 1 of its report. Of the others you list that are forecast to have lower growth rates that Russia, I specifically mentioned Japan, and Taiwan and (maybe) Singapore are the only countries that have GDPs in hailing distance of Russia.

    Let me get this straight. You’re saying you should have been more careful specifying that when you said “any country other than Japan”, by “any”, you actually meant a specific IMF list of a small number of countries rather than what one could only assume meant the entire world? You’re not being very creative here. Judging by the fact that you don’t even know how the IMF website works for gathering statistics (yes you can find the data you’re looking for quite easily from that link), I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you didn’t actually bother to look at world figures at all. You just cherry-picked one paragraph of the report and decided to write a misinformed blog post about it.

    “Oh, and Bob–don’t call me a liar again. I resurrected your comment from the spam queue (boy, that Aksimet filter is very perceptive) and posted it despite your slur. I figured it made you look worse than it did me. By a mile.”
    I didn’t call you a liar, I only suggest it amongst other possibilities. I think it’s clear now that you weren’t explicitly lying.

    “Man up and admit that by the standard YOU selected–the forecasts of major international economic organizations–the prospects for the Russian economy are very poor, relative to the government’s statements at the time we had our last little discussion, and relative to most major economies in the world. I said Russia was a beta>1 country, and hence would do worse than the rest of the world. You took the opposite view. The World Bank, OECD, and IMF agree with me. You gave them cred before. Why not now?”

    Well first of all, I don’t ever recall setting any such standard. Perhaps I used some of their reports as examples, but they are by no means the final say considering how sketchy economic forecasts can be in times of recession. I prefer listening to everyone worth listening to and making up my own mind on how well an economy will perform. That said, you’re wrong in saying that their prospects for Russia are worse than the rest of the world. Yes their estimates for 2009 growth is lower than I first expected at the start of the year, but it’s still performing significantly better than some of its neighbours. But more importantly, go figure out how to work that IMF page and check how many major economies don’t see growth in 2010. Some will be seeing recession for three years straight, starting last year all the way through 2010. Russia on the other hand will have had one year of recession according to these estimates. Collapses and depressions don’t last one year.

    I was never one of those claiming that Russia’s economy was a rock, recession-proof etc.. It’s no doubt being hit harder than many other countries, namely other emerging markets like the other BRIC countries. But it’s certainly not the end of the world like you seem to think, and it’s certainly not anywhere near the worst hit.

    Comment by BobFromCanada — April 23, 2009 @ 7:45 pm

  17. Bob,

    Thanks for your question and the great opportunity to advertise my accomplishments (and your breathtaking ignorance)! I’m the publisher of La Russophobe, one of the most trafficked Russia blogs on the planet an cited by such luminaries as the New York Review of Books, the Associated Press and Little Green Footballs, to name just three. I’m also the Russia columnist for Pajamas Media and American Thinker, two of the most powerful blogs of any kind in the world.

    And now, if I may ask, who are YOU? Aside from a crude, boorish thug who, apparently, everyone with pulse can’t stand?

    Comment by La Russophobe — April 23, 2009 @ 7:57 pm

  18. Michel,

    Got any side bets on whether he’ll pay you when you win? ;)

    Comment by La Russophobe — April 23, 2009 @ 7:58 pm

  19. ***UPDATE***

    Vladimir Putin has just assassinated the Russian Central Bank:

    http://www.robertamsterdam.com/2009/04/putins_jawboning_chews_away_at_central_bank_independence.htm

    Remember now, Putin doesn’t know the first blessed thing about economics or business. He’s a career KGB spy who plagiarized his dissertation. And he’s making interest rate decisions.

    Apres lui le deluge!

    Comment by La Russophobe — April 23, 2009 @ 9:00 pm

  20. Иаков–

    Я знаю несколъо русских слов. Я немнога говорю по-русски. Я немнога понимаю по-русски.

    Just beginning, but I’m trying. I like to play around with it. So sue me.

    And by the way, did I give you leave to use “Ты”? LOL.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 23, 2009 @ 10:57 pm

  21. “one of the most trafficked Russia blogs on the planet
    Oh this one’s got an ego. Sorry to break it to you, but according to Alexa.com rankings your site is about as trafficked as my old geocities website about tigers I made when I was 13.

    Englishrussia.com: 11,742
    Russiablog.org: 177,600
    Siberianlight.net: 572,780
    You: 957,514

    Barely in the top 1 million and not even close to the most trafficked Russia blog. And that’s only blogs that I personally know about, not even counting Russian language blogs.

    “And now, if I may ask, who are YOU?”
    Uh, I’m Bob from Canada. Duh. A nobody with too much time on my hands, just like you.

    Now this is where you insult me and try to hurt my e-feelings while I laugh at your sad display of a shattered ego. :) Oh I’m only fooling. Can we be friends?

    Comment by BobFromCanada — April 24, 2009 @ 8:49 am

  22. To La Russophobe: well, the bets are on to see whether he will acknowledge that I won when I will or whether he will try to find new “measures” of GDP to show that he was right ;)

    Comment by Michel — April 24, 2009 @ 9:07 am

  23. Bob,

    Thanks for giving me the excuse to talk even more about my blogging!

    I’d like to ask: Why do you ignore the Alexa statistics for Pajamas Media and American Thinker, where I’m the Russia columnist. Is it because those facts don’t quite fit with your weird little delusional narrative?

    Pajamas: 14,977
    American Thinker: 24,512

    And why do you attempt to compare my blog to English Russia, which doesn’t contain any serious discussion of Russian politics and is nothing more than sensationalism? Don’t you think that’s pretty stupid, even by your own standards? The same is pretty much true of Siberian Light, which is really a features blog not a news and analysis blog. Saying that more people read Sports Illustrated than the New York Review of Books (which cited my blog’s numerous original translations from Russian into English, another fact you choose to ignore) isn’t really saying anything at all, is it?

    And why do you attempt to compare it to Russia Blog, which is funded by Discovery Institute while mine is independent and carries no advertising, staffed by volunteers? Is it because you couldn’t find any Russia blog that is not organizationally funded that deals only with serious analysis of Russian news and politics and has traffic remotely close to mine? That’s rather dishonest of you, if so.

    And why do you try to twist my words? Are you really that pathologically jealous? I simply said my blog is one of the most trafficked, and it is. There are hundreds of Russia blogs and only a tiny handful with more traffic than mine. No Russia politics blog, by the way, has remotely close to the number of comments mine has. Russia Blog has virtually none, Siberian Light is only a little better (and, by the way, Siberian Light both interviewed me for a post and called my blog one of the top 5 on the planet — did you know that, Bob? Andy hasn’t interviewed YOU lately, has he?). You also choose not to mention that the average visitor stays on my blog nearly twice as long as on SL or RB.

    Isn’t the real point, moreover, that you don’t have ANY Russia blog at all, don’t put yourself out there in ANY way to be judged by the market much less do you write on a major website, so compared to a “nobody” such as you admit you are, I’m a real superstar (though granted, virtually anybody would be)? In fact, what business does a “nobody” like you have asking who anybody is? That was my actual question, which you’ve chosen to ignore.

    Oh and, by the way, Bob, the Alexa rating of THIS blog that YOU are REPEATEDLY commenting on is 3,360,856. Why didn’t you feel like mentioning that? Could it be because you know perfectly will this is a very powerful blog which is highly respected by many Russia experts even though its traffic isn’t nearly as high as mine? In fact, there are lots of other great blogs with important information about Russia that aren’t close to being in the top million, and you’ve just smeared all of them with your childish, jealous little lies.

    No wonder nobody seems to like or respect you. Getting an easy-going guy like SWP to ban you is really something you should be ashamed of. It’s sad that you’ve become so bitter that defending and rationalizing neo-Soviet dictatorship seems like a good idea to you. For that, I pity you.

    Why not just go an plant some flowers? Or write a blog . . . and see if anyone pays attention. Got the guts little boy? No? Thought not. And that will be the story of you.

    Comment by La Russophobe — April 24, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

  24. Way to diss your opponents, Michel. So big of you.

    For the record I agree that if the -9.5% figure for Q1 is confirmed as the final estimate, then the decline will very likely be more than -4% for the year.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — April 24, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

  25. I understand of course that you have a similar view on me.

    DR, to those decent Russians that aren’t in the fascist anti-civil society mold of Putin I wish them the best, to those willfully ignorant and morally lazy Russians that have thrown away their kids future endorsing that reptile I wish them poverty in spades. They deserve it.

    Correct me if I’m wrong in that you’ve been consistent in distancing yourself from Putin’s fascism. The last dialogue you and I had you came across a decent kid. a work in progress, whose politics are very different from mine. I don’t see you as a fascist little creep that would harm people or take away their basic liberties.

    Comment by penny — April 24, 2009 @ 6:28 pm

  26. Da Russophile wrote: “For the record I agree that if the -9.5% figure for Q1 is confirmed as the final estimate, then the decline will very likely be more than -4% for the year.”

    I am in shock. You are already accepting the inevitable. I am surprised and was expecting you to wait until the very end to concede defeat ;) Bravo! It is very big of you!

    Michel

    Comment by Michel — April 24, 2009 @ 7:40 pm

  27. @penny,

    1. That’s nice to hear – I appreciate your willingness to have a normal discussion, and hope we can continue in that spirit.

    2. Since you’re big on morality, I would interject that wishing poverty on anyone is not moral – in particular for political reasons. How does this make you different from those African dictators who use control of food distribution to buy loyalty and punish enemies, except in so much that you do not have the capability to do that?

    3. Around 70% of Russians approve of Putin according to opinion polls and a similar percentage of them believe they live in a democracy. So in effect you’re wishing for the impoverishment of the country. This is actually rather counter-productive because of the good historical links between increasing affluence and democratization.

    4. Sorry to disappoint, but how on Earth could I distance myself from “Putin’s fascism”, if I consider that labeling Putin a fascist is deeply a-historical and inaccurate? This is where we fundamentally diverge. I think he is overall a well-meaning patriot trying to reign in centrifugal tendencies in the regions and to remain popular in what is a post-totalitarian society with authoritarian proclivities, while trying to steer it towards affluence and democratization. Accomplishing this sometimes requires measures that could be described as authoritarian and skirting on the rule of law, but much the same could be said of many middle-income developing countries like Turkey or indeed Georgia.

    The Polity IV project, an academic project tracking democracy in most countries since 1945, would agree – I consider their reports much more accurate and objective than any amount of histrionics about rising Russian dictatorship from La Russophobe, and would recommend reading them in conjunctions with countries like Georgia, Estonia, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela, etc…and then reading up on the likes of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Algeria, Kazakhstan, etc, to see how the two above groups are fundamentally different in their level (or lack of) democratic development.

    As for the (and I stress, very unfortunate and regrettable) high incidence of things like journalist deaths or miscarriages of justice, my perception is that practically all such cases come from the lower and independent rungs of government and society – so I don’t see how spending time indiscriminately blaming the top people is more productive than, say, actually publicizing and campaigning for those cases. In other words, association with the likes of La Russophobe does folks like Larissa Arap or Natalia Morari absolutely no good. Furthermore, newspaper-reading Russians and the 27% of them having Internet access can read about it and make up their own minds. And finally, if you do somehow manage to overthrow Putin and his circle, who would replace them? Most likely, real fascists.

    I hope you take the above arguments and impressions on their own merits, and don’t revert to labeling me a reptilian Kremlin shill. ;)

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — April 25, 2009 @ 3:12 pm

  28. Hey DR, Russians in the passenger seat with Putin are inflicting poverty on themselves. It’s a symbiotic relationship. If you are willfully stupid and anti-democracy and that makes you poor so be it.

    Putin as a well-meaning a patriot, please, I’m sure Tony Soprano would define himself as one too. The Little Lizard and his cronies have been feathering their Swiss bank accounts, that’s the scope of their caring for the masses that they “serve”. It’s a joke.

    “And finally, if you do somehow manage to overthrow Putin and his circle, who would replace them? Most likely, real fascists.”

    Inadvertently you’ve made my point about the hubris and willful ignorance of most Russians, they would probably box themselves in with a lesser fascist sans Putin.

    No sympathy here.

    Comment by penny — April 25, 2009 @ 6:04 pm

  29. Penny: It’s become pretty obvious that you don’t have a problem with the Russian government so much as the Russian people. According to you, the Russian people will always “box themselves in with fascism” due to their “willful ignorance”, which means you’re essentially saying that no matter what, the Russian people will always choose the wrong leaders and therefore will always deserve to suffer the consequences of their poor choices, even if it’s a democratic choice (as it has been with Putin, how that makes him a fascist is anyone’s guess). It’s not about the current government for you, it’s about the people themselves. You seem to want to see them suffer collectively. That’s a bit disturbing to me, but not surprising at all. I’m only surprised that you admit it so bluntly.

    But of course, their choice turned out to be the complete opposite of what you’re implying. Russians today are wealthier and happier now than ever in the Federation’s short history, even despite these temporary economic woes. Therefore the only logical conclusion I can come up with is that you’re actually angry at the fact that their choice has worked out for them, and that only fuels your hatred even more. Where does it all stem from though? How does one come to hate a collective mass of people so much as to wish pain and misery upon each and every one, good soul or bad? People who are just trying to live their lives day by day? It’s beyond my comprehension, but I don’t expect an answer from you.

    Every time I come here I learn so much more about this crowd. It’s amazing, I could almost write a book about it.

    Comment by BobFromCanada — April 25, 2009 @ 9:57 pm

  30. Bob, you should reread a bit of history. Hitler used elections to rise to power and then once in power established a dictatorship. Elections (especially when there is clear manipulation of results to ensure that the right people are elected) does not prove that a state has growing fascist tendencies.

    Also, I have to ask you. Have you ever been to Russia? You write: “Russians today are wealthier and happier now than ever in the Federation’s short history.” So, you are basing Russian wealth and happiness based on the last 18 years? Yes, of course it is easy to be richer and happier if that is your point of reference. The question is whether the populace will be richer and happier six months from now, and that is unlikely. Also, you are exaggerating the material gains of the average Russian: yes, there was some limited trickle down effect, but that has been largely erased these past few months thanks to inflation, growing unemployment, and wage arrears.

    Comment by Michel — April 26, 2009 @ 8:47 am

  31. Bob, if you read my comments I have never not denounced the mafia swine in the Kremlin. What part of “little lizard” and “feathering their Swiss bank accounts” do you not understand? Putin’s dismantlement of the civil society features that were in place after Yeltsin weren’t all of a sudden. Too many Russians were well aware of the dismantlement of their rights, but, through hubris and willful ignorance ignored it. I don’t feel sorry for them. They are housed, clothed, have more stuff and information than they ever had, and there isn’t a famine killing them.

    You, Bob, actually insult Russians more with your soft bigotry of low expectations. It always amuses me when people that would never live under the terms of an totalitarian government from their safe spot in a cushy western democracy defend that which they would never tolerate themselves. You are a hypocrite, Bob.

    Comment by penny — April 26, 2009 @ 9:27 am

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