WHERE WILL THE RUBLE STOP?

Back in the late 1940s, a friend of President Harry S. Truman sent him a desk plaque, which boasted that: “The Buck Stops Here!”  Passing the “Buck”, as the dollar is called, is just another phrase for shifting the blame.  And plain-speaking Truman wanted none of that.  But does that responsibility apply to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as it should to any other head-of-state?  The Russian people don’t seem to think so!

Generally, a government needs to divide its financial resources among the nation’s various needs.  This decision is commonly simplified as:  “Guns or Butter?”  Too much of either—Defense or Infrastructure—may cause problems from the imbalance.  A country that spends too much on its military might provoke neighboring nations to respond to its bellicose ways, while a populace that is lacking basic necessities may revolt.  A well-oiled economy, however, that is lacking in the means to defend itself, can likewise be at risk of invasion.  Some sort of equilibrium needs to be achieved between the two.  

The Russian economy is truly hurting.  It has failed to diversify its industry much beyond its over-dependence on oil and gas, at a time when the prices for those commodities have dropped considerably over the past 18 months.  That has caused the Ruble to drop by 20% this year, on top of a substantial decline last year.

For the average Russian, a declining paycheck and a current 12% inflation rate, means that it is impossible to make ends meet.  Less Rubles, which buy even less, just won’t cut it!   All the while: Moscow has annexed Crimea, but did not provide its people with basic services; Russia has also been secretly funding Ukrainian rebels in the East, who have rebelled against their government; and it has been propping-up President Bashar Assad in Syria.

In order to understand the full impact of this Guns over Butter scenario in a devastated economy, it is important to realize that the Russian government—and more specifically Vladimir Putin—controls all facets of the media.  Apparently, he has even allowed his own Cabinet to be cast as the cause of the weakening economy.  So, as Putin uses his military for canon fodder in his foreign exploits, he still enjoys an extremely favorable approval rating on the home front.  

The Russian people, like most people everywhere, are extremely proud of their military.  They are happy that Putin annexed Crimea; but, they don’t realize that Moscow has failed to provide its residents with the necessary goods and services that they need to live in decent conditions.  And many Russians also do not understand that President Putin’s military exploits are responsible for the economic sanctions placed on their economy by the West, and also that that is the reason for how hard living conditions have become for them.

The linked Associated Press article, by Nataliya Vasileya, provides a more in-depth description of the current living conditions for the average Russian  man or woman:  http://en.annahar.com/article/297552-in-Russia-recession-takes-a-bite-out-of-the-holiday-feast.  Again, the question for President Vladimir Putin might be better expressed as:  When are you going to stop blaming your Cabinet for the harsh economic problems that your militaristic policies are causing your people? 

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