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Tuesday, 21 January 2020

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Compare Russia today with Russia under Yeltsin and you'll realise Putin's done a fantastic job, given where he was starting from. I wish we had a leader in the UK who actually cared for the British people the way he cares about Russia - Corbyn, May and Boris don't give a hoot for us, as long as there are a few nice bolt-holes preserved in the Cotswolds.

Consider the situation in the mid-late 1990s. Russia was being looted by the criminal oligarchs - they were all criminals because they wouldn't have made it in the lawless 90s otherwise. All the state assets ended in the hands of crooks (even the door handles at Moscow Airport were pinched according to a friend passing through at the time), life expectancy was going off a cliff, babushkas were selling their possessions in the streets for food - while in the nightclubs and cafes of the New Russia the gangster businessmen competed over who could spend the most or who had the most stunning woman. Weimar Berlin vibe.

When Putin came to power, he could have done the right thing and attempted to rewind the looting and redistribute fairly. He'd probably have been killed, even with his KGB background. Instead he offered the oligarchs a deal - don't attempt to use your money to buy political power, and you can keep your cash. Most of the oligarchs took the deal, and the minority who didn't you will read about in the papers.


Then, slowly and carefully he started rebuilding Russia.

Life expectancy has recovered, alcoholism is way, way down, and fertility, while still not good, is at just above the level of white Brits (1.7 kids compared with 1.6, last measured in 2004 but unlikely to have improved). The economy has survived the collapse of oil prices rather well. They've got Crimea back, given to Ukraine by Krushchev in Soviet days and Russia's only warm-water port in the West. They've successfully (so far) stood by their allies in Syria and Iran. Living standards are up, admittedly from the 1995-2000 disaster years, but that's more than you can say for the UK or US, where real wages have been falling for decades (when did you last hear an economics correspondent mention 'standard of living'?).


The trouble is, Putin's relationship with the oligarchs is like an Tsar's with his boyars or nobles - keep them onside or be killed by them. Not our way, speaking as a Brit, but it's been their way for the last four centuries. There's no doubt that as Tsars go he's been a good'un.

The other trouble is - succession.

Er, by the way Vlad, that'll be the usual fee - 3 grams of gold and a bottle of Stolichnaya Elit, ok?

So it's unanimous then?

Hugh, that was an exceedingly interesting post. I need some time to think about what you say - I am unconvinced but I will think on't! I will reply tomorrow.

Very good, Hugh. We tend to forget, over here, that this is Russia.

Having a political leader who actually puts his own nation first has a powerful effect on ordinary people.

What a bunch of poppycock.

Imagine a Russia that wasn't under sanctions and fully embracing global capital, working with the West rather than against it, operated a functioning democracy with all the tenets of enlightenment implemented instead of running like a mafia racket. How much better off economically, socially, and politically would ordinary Russians be? 5 times? 10 times? Uncountably?

That crock that says "Oh all that's not for Russians, they're different" - how so Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong then? Came from nowhere shitholes economically, politically, and socially to the forefront of Western civilization in a few generations - and all sans Magna Carta Libertatum!

SoD

Sorry, Hugh, but my - admittedly ill-informed - impression of Russia today is that it is only marginally better than Uncle Joe's era. The only improvements for the people simple arise from the improvements of Western-driven technology which has seeped over there. In essence, it is one enormous prison camp which only remains that way by a combination of ruthless (but better targeted) murder and imprisonment plus the distribution of sundry baubles from time to time to keep the people quiescent.

And Malcom, if you are right that the Russian people are deeply grateful to 'Vlad' because he goes around interfering in foreign countries and murdering foreign nationals (as well as his own!) then the Russians deserve everything they get in their miserable Third World country!

We can hardly talk about apathy. In the West we watch as Brexit was hijacked and it was only through incompetence that they failed. In the US they are attaching Trump. Think in both those cases if they had worked together as with all decisions in the past how much better we would be without our 'superiors' guiding hands.

Yet we do nothing and haven't for a long time.

The rule over Russia today may have more in common with the norm for governance throughout human history. The modern West is a break from this norm and the English speaking world a bridge farther still. Those with power and control want to keep it and it is only the degree and means they will use to do so that separates "us" from the Putins of the world.

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