Timmy elsewhereDecember 28, 2014 Tim WorstallTimmy Elsewhere42 CommentsWhy Uncle Vova’s economy really is screwed. previousTimmy elsewherenextDiddums 42 thoughts on “Timmy elsewhere” So Much for Subtlety December 28, 2014 at 10:37 am There is the other factor too – Western economies (and even more so Japan’s economy) depend on men going out day after day, working at crap jobs, for varying degrees of money, because they have wives, mortgages and children to support. Increasingly that is not a good deal in the West. However the Soviet Union had 60 years of trying to replace fathers and husbands. They told men, and women too, that it was the State’s job to raise children. They told men, and women too, that husbands were pointless. Russian men have taken it to heart. They are feckless, violent and on the whole, rather drunk. Excellent boyfriends if you like that sort of thing. Terrible husbands. There is just no way Russian men are going to throw their lives away for a cold and sexless marriage. That’s for WASPs. There is no way they are going to waste the best years of their lives studying. People respond to incentives. Societies where welfare replace husbands and fathers all look very similar – Black America, Native American reservations, and now Russia. Hallowed Be December 28, 2014 at 11:55 am Those sanctions carried a lot of bite it seems. And so they are preferable to the other more hawkish responses proffered to the Crimean annexation. However if the Russian economy goes seriously down the plug hole and is unable to recover bloodshed becomes even more likely. Steve December 28, 2014 at 11:55 am Pooty-Poot isn’t likely to take this lying down. If Russia truly is in the shitter because of sanctions, he could cut off Europe’s gas or take over other parts of Eastern Europe – depending on how threatened he feels. Tim Newman December 28, 2014 at 12:10 pm Russia truly is in the shitter because of sanctions, he could cut off Europe’s gas or take over other parts of Eastern Europe – depending on how threatened he feels. He can’t cut the gas off: it’s his only remaining source of hard currency. Even the Soviets figured this out. Steve December 28, 2014 at 12:18 pm Tim – sure he can, if he thinks he’s royally fucked anyway. That or jack up the price. Depends on how personally threatened Putin and his allies feel. Jim December 28, 2014 at 12:31 pm “He can’t cut the gas off: it’s his only remaining source of hard currency. Even the Soviets figured this out.” But he could threaten to cut the gas off, couldn’t he? Then it would be a case of who blinked first – Western democratic politicians facing OAPs freezing to death in their flats because the heats gone, or an autocratic nationalistic leader who’s got a big army and secret police force to keep his population in line? It might be true that he can’t cut the gas off, but would we call his bluff if he said he would? Bloke with a Boat December 28, 2014 at 1:01 pm The problem is that sanctions aren’t working; if by working we mean making Putin so unpopular he reverses the annexation of Crimea. His approval rating is around 80%, something western leaders would die for. What is worrying is that he is not just in office but genuinely in power. No checks and balances to control him and he has been in power long enough for the disease of power to take control. Mr Ecks December 28, 2014 at 1:16 pm Also–while I have no time for the Shirtless Wonder–the West is not exactly brimming with economic health and knocking bricks out of the wall will help to bring the whole lot down. Ultimately for the good but hell to pay in the short/medium term. As –in general–a supporter of corporate socialism Tim, will you find schadenfreude quite so amusing then? Tim Newman December 28, 2014 at 1:18 pm If Putin threatened to cut the gas off, he could find Russia has been blocked out of the SWIFT system – there are plenty of serious retaliatory measures that could be taken. The result would be one freezing winter in Europe which would be the last straw to diversifying supplies once and for all, but for Russia it would mean total economic collapse. dearieme December 28, 2014 at 1:24 pm “He can’t cut the gas off: it’s his only remaining source of hard currency. Even the Soviets figured this out.” Economic rationalists had concluded that the First World War couldn’t happen either. Steve December 28, 2014 at 1:31 pm Tim Newman – Yes. This is why sanctions can lead to war. Doubt it will in this case, but you never know. When you kick another man in the goolies, he’s likely to try and get back at you somehow. Tim Newman December 28, 2014 at 1:40 pm Doubt it will in this case, but you never know. When you kick another man in the goolies, he’s likely to try and get back at you somehow. Which is a lesson Putin ought to learn: you cannot annex a neighbour’s territory without consequences. Bloke in Germany December 28, 2014 at 1:43 pm @Steve, Quite. When Putin kicks the west in the goolies the west gets back at him. Steve December 28, 2014 at 1:50 pm Tim Newman, Bloke in Germany – Sure. Let’s all kick each other in the goolies till we can sing “Walking In The Air” like a choir full of young Aled Joneses. All for the sake of the sovereignty of the Ukraine, or something, which we care about so very deeply. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) Tim Newman December 28, 2014 at 1:56 pm I don’t think the West cares too much about Ukraine, but rather the battle is over Poland or the Baltics. I have a feeling the Crimeans will soon be wondering what the hell they’ve signed up for. Jason Lynch December 28, 2014 at 1:57 pm Dearime, If you read Angell (the work that is most often claimed to ‘prove the First World War could not happen’) he doesn’t say war is now impossible, just rather pointless since a 1900s economy has much less lootable wealth: conquering a province and enslaving or pillaging it just didn’t appear worthwhile any more. (You’d need somewhere like Alsace-Lorraine for an exception) Oddly enough, he was proved precisely correct in 1919, when extracting reparations from Germany turned out to be far harder than expected – the French occupation of the Ruhr nicely demonstrating the limitations. Steve December 28, 2014 at 2:03 pm Tim Newman – I have a feeling the Crimeans will soon be wondering what the hell they’ve signed up for. There don’t seem to be a surfeit of good options in Europe these days. Either submit to being dominated by an undemocratic regime of foreign kleptocrats, or Putin. I say we should start mining the Channel. The Meissen Bison December 28, 2014 at 7:12 pm There’s nothing Putin does – liquidating enemies abroad, sending troops into neighbouring territories with that country’s uniforms minus insignia and so on – which cannot be found in the old Soviet playbook. And it’s worth remembering the adage that the only border the Soviet Union ever felt comfortable with was one which had the USSR on both sides of it. Martin Davies December 28, 2014 at 11:14 pm Many wars have started because someone raised the stakes. They are very expensive, supremely stupid things yet there can be a progression towards one that is in small steps, each one being seen as a good idea by one side or the other… until the most idiotic initial situation results in a war killing thousands or millions. The ‘official’ reason and actual reason for going to war can be somewhat different if you look at what happened. JeremyT December 29, 2014 at 1:38 am This is a fight, and in fights you have to hit the other guy harder than he hits you. So if I were Putin I’d double or triple the price of the EU’s gas. If it chooses to go without, that loses 30% of its energy and causes EU- and world-wide economic mayhem. If it pays up, he gets improved cash flow. After that, it gets ugly. But the EU knew this when it encouraged regime change in Ukraine. So no doubt it has a cunning plan. Van_Patten December 29, 2014 at 2:58 am From recollection he has been counted out before and has returned. Will he begin funneling arms to ISIS, for example, in a bid to destabilize the West? set off a few race riots over in the US and get a few police executed? We only have to look at the legions of anti-UKIP sheep on Twitter, or the various responses from the West to the attacks in Australia (#ridewithme) or the atrocities of Boko Haram (#bringbackourgirls) for Putin to realize he’s dealing (even in relation to the US) with a paper tiger – if he ups the ante further in Ukraine, does anyone seriously think NATO will intervene militarily? Tim Newman December 29, 2014 at 8:56 am But the EU knew this when it encouraged regime change in Ukraine. So no doubt it has a cunning plan. What the EU was offering Ukraine was a trade agreement. It is ironic that offering a trade agreement is seen by some as the root cause of Russia invading Ukraine, whilst simultaneously trade sanctions are being denounced as a potential cause of war. My take is that Putin has spent 10 years surrounding himself with arselickers and suppressing dissenting voices, and he now believes his own bullshit and thinks he’s Catherine the Fucking Great. Ross December 29, 2014 at 9:22 am Jeremy- do you not think that if it was within Russia’s power to increase the price of gas that they’d have already done it? After failing to reform the economy when the prices were high Putin doesn’t have any magic bullets he can use to escape from his mess. Matthew L December 29, 2014 at 10:02 am My take is that Putin has spent 10 years surrounding himself with arselickers and suppressing dissenting voices, and he now believes his own bullshit and thinks he’s Catherine the Fucking Great. That’s the most sensible and realistic thing in this thread. So Much for Subtlety December 29, 2014 at 10:11 am Tim Newman – “My take is that Putin has spent 10 years surrounding himself with arselickers and suppressing dissenting voices, and he now believes his own bullshit and thinks he’s Catherine the Fucking Great.” Well then as long as he remains on top of that horse he is always riding, he ought to live forever. Hallowed Be December 29, 2014 at 10:45 am Only speculating, of course, but I suppose if the problem (maybe not the underlying one but the immediate one) is the price of oil, then if you are Russia, there are ways of trying to raise the price. a) Political pressure on OPEC and immediate neighbours. b) A little poking of the hornets nest in Middle East I say trying because they may have worked in the past but I think its likely the fracking revolution makes the market less sensitive to these tactics than was the case in the past. ken December 29, 2014 at 11:24 am With regard to the price of oil, OPEC (or rather the Saudis) have made it clear that they do not intend to repeat their error of the first half of the 1980s when they supported prices through production cuts only to find that they had made a rod for their own backs by supporting N. Sea and Mexican production investment. The Russians might be able to push it up a bit if there was serious political trouble, but I dont think they can expect any help from OPEC. They could try to hike prices, but unless they want to break contracts (which would be expensive in the medium term) the odds are that prices are exactly where they should be. Note that Putin bounced back because oil prices rose. His kleptocracy works, but without high energy prices to grease things along, it will probably end badly. Some nasty military adventurism is possible – he spent quite a lot on hardware when they had cash. That said, they have a decent cushion of cash in the central bank assuming that they can prevent a massive domestic run. I suspect the near abroad is about to get quite lively in the next few years. fred December 29, 2014 at 11:44 am If I was him I would be supporting the left in Greece to destabilize the EU. Hallowed Be December 29, 2014 at 12:14 pm BTW – who is Uncle Vova? Surreptitious Evil December 29, 2014 at 1:32 pm Vova is a diminutive of Vladimir. Or try here. Bloke In Italy December 29, 2014 at 2:41 pm @ Tim Newman “what the EU was offering Ukraine was a trade agreement”. Not quite; it was more the beginning of a process which was generally understood to lead with a fair amount of inevitability to EU membership and NATO as well, followed up by strong encouragement even incitement to mildly violent and certainly illegal regime change. However having kicked over the hornets’ next the West didn’t then know what to do next. Putin’s reactions are quite obviously out of the Soviet playbook, and he is in the shit, but he was provoked by people who ought to know better, and he has the capacity to make things jolly unpleasant (sticking with the Soviet playbook). A Russia in the control of a cabal of essentially fascistic leaders, mass murderers and serial kleptocrats facing economic meltdown is a deeply uncomfortable prospect. I think we can expect any amount of KGB-style funny business in the next few years and let’s hope nothing worse. At fault is not just the EU, but also Obama’s state department. ken December 29, 2014 at 3:01 pm @Bloke in Italy Although the EU deal was indeed stupid, the problem was that Ukraine was (is?) imploding. In many ways the West was sucked into the vacuum of a failing economy and a political mess. The West did pour fuel on the flames, but Putin had already done a great deal to set the fire in the first place. Should we have left it alone? Probably. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Tim Newman December 29, 2014 at 3:51 pm @ Bloke in Italy, I think ken has responded well. Ukraine has had 20 years to sort itself out, the entire time of which it the EU and America left it well alone and it was under Russian influence. What was on offer for the indefinite future was one term of Russian-style gangsterism followed by one term of Ukrainian-style cluelessness, petty infighting, and corruption. The Ukrainians, most of them anyway, were utterly fed up of this state of affairs. One way to break this deadlock was for the EU to offer a partnership to a trade deal, to try to improve the politics in the place and get something like a functioning economy going. After 20 years of failure, with Russia adding nothing of value, this was hardly unreasonable on the part of the EU. Russia responded as they did partly because the last thing they want is an end to the gangsterism in Ukraine from which many Russians profit handsomely, and serves as a market for their inferior quality goods; and partly out of a mistaken belief that Ukraine is Russian property and should remain that way. All the “fears” of Nato simply serve as an excuse: Lithuania and Poland are in Nato, and both border the enclave around Kaliningrad. Estonia and Latvia border Russia proper. None of this presents the slightest threat to Russia, other than they would lose influence for flogging outdated arms and no longer enjoy skimming billions of dodgy gas transit deals if Nato and the EU entered Ukraine. That’s all this is about, coupled with a population which is fed up being run by incompetent, self-serving gangsters in leather jackets. Bloke In Italy December 29, 2014 at 5:25 pm Ken and Tim- good responses. I am minded of a wise piece of advice from a drunk cricketing buddy of mine some years ago – “never play chicken with the village idiot” Hallowed Be December 29, 2014 at 7:06 pm SE- Yes I did fall for it but thanks for the actual answer too. I had actually Googled uncle vova and got only an English children’s book I felt sure that this couldn’t be the answer. So Much for Subtlety December 29, 2014 at 9:35 pm Bloke In Italy – “A Russia in the control of a cabal of essentially fascistic leaders, mass murderers and serial kleptocrats facing economic meltdown is a deeply uncomfortable prospect. I think we can expect any amount of KGB-style funny business in the next few years and let’s hope nothing worse.” But Russia is (and has been for a long time) in the control of a cabal of essentially Stalinist leaders, mass murderers and serial kleptocrats. I would suggest that it is better for us that they are facing economic meltdown rather than a booming economy. Remember Russia has sent people to London to murder dissidents. Just as they did at the height of the Cold War. JeremyT December 29, 2014 at 11:38 pm Bugger, got to this late. According to Richard North, the EU Treaty Ukraine has signed includes a military cooperation clause. Ross, I suspect they haven’t raised the price because a) they’re winging it and b) they’re waiting for the EU to burn its stockpiles. About half a million German households are dark due to ‘sustainability’ price hikes. SMFS: If the West had left the Ukraine alone and continued to include Russia, we’d be looking at a slow – maybe 50 years – transition of Russia’s economy & polity to, say, Italian levels. But we didn’t, and now it’s desperate and will seek to harm us. So Much for Subtlety December 30, 2014 at 12:21 am JeremyT – “According to Richard North, the EU Treaty Ukraine has signed includes a military cooperation clause.” Fat lot of good it has done. “If the West had left the Ukraine alone and continued to include Russia, we’d be looking at a slow – maybe 50 years – transition of Russia’s economy & polity to, say, Italian levels. But we didn’t, and now it’s desperate and will seek to harm us.” What on Earth makes you think that? Why do you assume Russia must converge with the West when virtually no one else is doing so? But that is not the point. Once we give up the Sudenten principle – that force cannot change borders, we would be back in the 1930s with petty little dictators changing borders left right and centre. We have an international legal order. It sort of works. We cannot let the Russians over-turn it. Maybe we could have left the Ukrainians under the thumb of pro-Russian kleptocrats. Maybe we blundered into this mess. That does not excuse Putin and we cannot go back and undo what he has done. Tim Newman December 30, 2014 at 11:32 am According to Richard North, the EU Treaty Ukraine has signed includes a military cooperation clause. Is that the recent one, which was signed after Russia annexed Crimea and invaded East Ukraine? If so, then it’s hardly surprising. But I’d be interested to see if this clause was in the original one being floated. JeremyT December 30, 2014 at 8:22 pm Tim It was the original one; it’s called the acquis communautaire. SMFS Maybe we could have left the Ukrainians under the thumb of pro-Russian kleptocrats. What we’ve actually done is put the Ukrainians under an anti-Russian kleptoctrat who is obliged to operate under EU rules. Maybe we blundered into this mess. That does not excuse Putin and we cannot go back and undo what he has done. We (Obama and the EU Commission) are trying to undo what he has done, by tanking the Russian economy. My point is not that Putin is a good guy: he clearly is not, but that our gutless ‘leaders’ have pushed him into what will be a hugely damaging fight. So Much for Subtlety December 31, 2014 at 12:15 am JeremyT – “What we’ve actually done is put the Ukrainians under an anti-Russian kleptoctrat who is obliged to operate under EU rules.” No, what the Ukrainians have done is put themselves under an anti-Russian kleptocrat. What we are trying to do is slowly make their social and political norms trend towards the European mean. “We (Obama and the EU Commission) are trying to undo what he has done, by tanking the Russian economy.” That is irrelevant. We can’t undo it. The damage is now done. We are doing more damage to the Russian economy in an effort to undo the quasi-annexations. We are trying to restore international legal norms. But we can’t pretend it did not happen. “My point is not that Putin is a good guy: he clearly is not, but that our gutless ‘leaders’ have pushed him into what will be a hugely damaging fight.” He was hardly pushed. What our gutless leaders did not do is make it clear to Putin that a Sudenten-style policy would not be treated as casually as past Sudenten-style policies. We allowed him to bully Georgia and so he moved on to the Ukraine. They should have made it clear that Russia would pay the price. I don’t get the love-in the Right is having for Putin. He can’t be buying everyone. PaulB December 31, 2014 at 9:32 pm What precisely should our “gutless leaders” have threatened Putin with? And should they have meant it? And what does “Sudenten-style” mean? Something to do with what did or didn’t happen in the Sudetenland? Leave a Reply Cancel replyYour email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *Comment Name * Email * Website Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.