In my last blog entry I departed from the topic of Ukraine and gave an update on how things are going with my children and me. I deeply appreciate all the kind responses. I made it through the holidays and my birthday pretty well. The kids have one more week of school. Things are still not looking good for a trip home to America. I’m starting to think about looking for a guide or someone to help with a trip to places in Russia we have not seen or where we might enjoy this summer. I think we need a change of scenery—at least I do.
In this blog entry I am going to give a general update and review on the situation in Russia as it relates to the relationship with the U.S. As usual, I think there are a lot of misrepresentations in the U.S. media about how things are here. I’ve done this in many blogs, of course, because many wanted to hear what life in Russia is really like. But now it is more serious. I fear the misinformation (to use the popular euphemism for lies) is being used by some to bring the two countries closer to war. In fact, some U.S. politicians are saying, “We are at war with Russia.” My little blog won’t stop it, but I am still determined to do what I can. “Information is power,” as Scott Ritter says.
THE GOOD. There are a number of good things happening in Russia. First, the ruble continues to gain strength. It is the strongest against the dollar that I can recall for quite some time. That amazes me. Russia is the most sanctioned country in the world by far, yet the ruble is much stronger than it was before the sanctions.
I think one reason the ruble is so strong is because no one in the Kremlin panicked when the sanctions were announced. They were not surprised. Calm decisions were made in the heat of the threats and the implementation (or attempts at implementation) of the sanctions. For example, a major threat was that the Western countries would not buy gas and oil from Russia. Russia responded by saying that was fine, but if “unfriendly countries” do buy oil from Russia they will have to pay in rubles. Unlike what I’ve heard, Putin did not raise the price of oil or gas. But the ruble started to regain strength after that, and then a few other measures were implemented that have continued the trend.
Two things happened after the sanctions were announced that I found interesting. First, there were countries not affiliated with the EU, e.g., China and India, that stated immediately they would like to buy more gas and/or oil from Russia. Second, there was a great deal of confusion and dissension among the EU countries which depend on Russian oil and gas. It seemed to me these countries wanted to please their U.S. masters and boycott Russian gas and oil, but at the same time they realized their own economies would be devastated by winter if they did so. There was hardly unity on what to do. The confusion and division led to an increase in the price of oil.
Gas prices were already rising in America long before the invasion of Ukraine, however. Watch how Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri responds to U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm’s simplistic blaming of Putin for the gas price increases. (Start at the 50 second mark. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAs0iYDncu0)
I am quite sure the results of the sanctions were far from what the U.S. leaders had hoped. A headline article in Business Insider on May 16 stated, “Soaring oil and gas prices helped Russia more than triple its current account surplus to $96 billion, its largest in 28 years.” Business Insider is hardly a “Putin publication.” The article continues, “Russian oil export revenue is up 50% since the start of 2022, the International Energy Agency said last week.” So oddly, the sanctions resulted in more money being pumped into the Russian economy.
Another area in which things are looking good for Russia is in wheat and grain production. On May 12, President Putin announced it looks like Russia may have its largest wheat and grain production in history. Russia has led the world in wheat and grain exports for the last four years. With fears of food shortages also in the news, I do not think most countries want to risk closing their ports to grain and wheat from Russia. This week Russia’s permanent representative to the U.N., Vasily Nebanzya, said Russia will have 25 million tons of grain ready to export from August 1 till the end of this year.
THE BAD. The bad economic trends have hit my home country. Unlike in Russia, where gas prices are still the same, prices in the U.S. are now higher than ever according to Triple A. I checked their prices last week and every day the price went up a bit, setting a new record for highest gas prices ever in the U.S. Diesel is especially high.
I have not done any in-depth research into the possible impact of sanctioning Russian fertilizers. I saw a Facebook post from one of my friends in South Carolina who is a farmer showing the extremely high prices of fertilizers that farmers there are having to pay already. While anecdotal, it is consistent with what I have seen in other articles. Russia is the largest exporter of fertilizers in the world and is ready to sell. Nebanzya announced Russia will have 22 million tons ready. I personally think it is a shame that American farmers and American consumers will be hurt by these sanctions.
I don’t think one has to be an economist to foresee a potential disaster. Farmers are having to pay much more for fertilizers to grow their crops; gas prices, especially for the big trucks that transport the crops, are higher than at any time in U.S. history; food shortages were already low and shelves were empty in many stores before Russia entered Ukraine. It appears that if America continues down this road an economic crash is ahead.
Do the leaders not see that or are they simply unwilling to admit they were wrong in implementing the unproductive sanctions? The West is hurting itself, not Russia, with these sanctions. Rather than seeking authentic diplomatic options to solving the crisis in Ukraine, leaders in Washington are still wanting to keep the war going. The U.S. is determined to feed the war in Ukraine in an attempt to weaken Russia and get rid of Putin. Several leaders in D.C. have stated that clearly.
As I wrote in an earlier blog, I have children, grandchildren, and other dear family members and friends in America. I take no joy whatsoever in writing what I have just written about how bad I fear it is getting in America. Russia is self-sufficient in terms of food and energy resources. Yet American politicians still talk and act as if they are sanctioning Russia from a position of strength.
THE UGLY. The ugly part of this scenario is the deception that I see coming from the West, particularly the U.S., in attempting to feed the war. When I went to the site to check the dollar to ruble rate, there were articles advertised there which were related to issues in Russia. The first one on the list was an article from CNN posing the question, “Can Russia survive its coming economic collapse?” I chose not to read the article because I do not want to spend however much time I have left on earth reading that junk. But they want Americans to believe that Russia is on the verge of economic collapse. They know most Americans do not read Market Insider and other such publications. So CNN and others know they can lie. And those lies are dangerous and ugly.
Second, I still hear it stated that Americans must endure the hardships to preserve democracy in Ukraine. Given the lack of confidence Americans now have in the integrity of their own electoral process, I’m not so sure much effort is being given to protecting democracy in America. But I am sure that Ukraine is not democratic. I’ve posted the Victoria Nuland phone call, which makes clear that furthering democracy was not what America was carrying out in Ukraine. I won’t go over all that again.
I have also pointed to evidence of how Zelensky eliminates his opposition. I realize that some will continue to believe the Western press. I only offer for your consideration other sources, e.g., The Gray Zone. I personally have found Max Blumenthal to be a trustworthy source. (https://thegrayzone.com/2022/04/17/traitor-zelensky-assassination-kidnapping-arrest-political-opposition/)
The bottom line is that the U.S. is doing all it can to fuel the war in Ukraine despite the economic hardships at home. Most of us Americans complain about how slow and confusing getting legislation passed in Congress can be. But last week Nancy Pelosi quickly pushed a bill through the House of Representatives to allocate $40 billion dollars for Ukraine in addition to the $13 billion the U.S. sent two months prior. Then Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and Republican leader Mitch McConnell got the bill through the Senate in one day! The U.S. politicians cannot solve the baby formula problem, they can’t solve the gas price problem, they haven’t solved the immigration problem in years, but in one day they can get $40 billion for Ukraine to keep the war going. Something is really ugly about that.
I will add a caveat about the $40 billion. Alexander Mercouris of The Duran said he read the bill and it appears to him only about $6 billion is going to military equipment and training of soldiers. The bill funds salaries for government workers and many other items related to keeping the Ukrainian government afloat. Keep in mind Transparency International rates countries based on their studies of the integrity and honesty of the governments. Out of a possible 100 (for perfectly honest), Ukraine scored 32.
I watched the videos of the Ukrainian soldiers and neo-Nazis surrendering to the Russian troops outside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. I was not watching Russian videos or what I saw on the Russian news. I was watching videos posted by Patrick Lancaster, Vanessa Beeley and the video commentary by Scott Ritter. I saw the Ukrainians come out with hands up. I watched them checked for weapons; I saw them remove their shirts to reveal the Nazi tattoos and various other weird symbols. I saw the wounded taken away to the hospital. And then later I watched Zelensky’s interpretation of how the Ukrainian troops had accomplished their military mission and then evacuated the area. He said he had them evacuate so they would live to fight another day.
The truth is they surrendered and now they are prisoners of war. The man, President Zelensky, completely fabricated a narrative for Westerners wanting to believe Ukraine is still winning the war. It was totally false! And this is the man Joe Biden, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi–Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate—are sending $40 billion more.
THE PUTIN FACTOR. In my opinion, the main or at least underlying reason for all this opposition, however, is the firmly held dogma that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin is the incarnation of evil. The U.S. has decided he has to go. From what I read and hear from the U.S. media, there are two main groups. First, I find in CNN and most MSM the idea that Putin invaded Ukraine to take it over and hopefully return to the days of the USSR. He wants power! He must be stopped. That is the position of the Biden administration.
Others, like Tucker Carlson, agree that Putin was immoral for invading Ukraine, but he says we can’t risk the security of the U.S. by defending the borders of Ukraine. Tucker points to the idiocy of the American sanctions, but still falls back on the belief that Putin had no business invading Ukraine. I have noticed even with some reporters outside the U.S. there is an inherent need to condemn Putin while pointing to the ridiculous nature of some decisions by U.S. leaders. Condemning Putin is apparently essential for keeping your press pass (literally or figuratively).
I have stated before that while I regard the invasion of Ukraine by Russia as unfortunate and horrible, I agree with those who say there was no other way to stop the killing and shelling of those in the Donbass. I have yet to hear another option. I have received several responses condemning me for supporting Mr. Putin’s decision. Not one of them has ever answered my basic questions: Do you support the continued shelling and killing of those in the Donbass? If not, how else was it going to be stopped? Even with the Donbass almost in Russian control, the Ukrainians are still shelling and killing residents there. They will not stop until they are defeated militarily. I would love to hear a great solution, but so far people just condemn the invasion, blame Putin and either ignore or deny the killing of innocents in Donbass.
One official government report I read this week said that over 3,000 citizens of Ukraine had been killed since the invasion. Nothing was mentioned, however, about the 14,000 that were killed in Donbass before the invasion. Donbass lives don’t matter. In my opinion, Putin followed every possible diplomatic route to avoid invading Ukraine. The U.S. refused because the war must continue until Putin is removed. In my opinion, that plan will work about as well as those sanctions have.
Both in the press and in social media it is accepted by so many that Putin is a dictator with billions of dollars stashed away. I have been told that myself—oddly enough, by people who have never been to Russia. First, I’ve never seen any of them specifically say where this money is stashed and how they know he stashed it. I have not read any details that address these two obvious questions. In philosophy, it would be called an epistemological problem: how do you know what you know? The logic seems to be just to keep saying it, and that will make it true.
Second, I would briefly add that neither I nor many of my friends here really understand what it is that makes Putin a dictator. It does not feel that way to me. I may not agree with all the decisions Putin makes or all the laws he supports. That does not make him a dictator. It means the people elected him, not me, to be president.
I have other questions on the issue of invasions. Why it is okay for America to still have troops in Syria, occupy about one third of the country and openly steal oil from Syrian wells, and it is not called an invasion? President Trump pulled U.S. troops out of Somalia, but the Biden administration sent them back in. How are events in Somalia an existential threat to the U.S.? Do the American people really want our troops in Somalia? The U.S. is still in Iraq after their government voted and told us to leave. So many Iraqis are dead because of the United States. Why are these not “invasions”?
On the other hand, Vladimir Putin tried for 8 years to stop the West from sending “lethal weapons” (as the U.S. called them) to his border with Ukraine, and he pleaded for all those years for the U.S. and NATO to make Ukraine stop killing innocent people in the Donbass. When he finally concluded the only way to stop the attacks was to send in troops, then he was condemned for invading another country. Neither Somalia, Syria, or Iraq is anywhere close to the U.S. border. There is no existential threat to the U.S. from any of those countries. There are those of us who believe this is sheer hypocrisy.
As some may have seen, the award for Freudian slip of the century goes to former President George W. Bush. In attempting to condemn Putin, he got his invasions confused. Please watch the 41 second video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUEr7TayrmU
A couple of observations. Before the slip he stated the Russian elections are rigged. I remind you, Russia allows international teams of observers to all its national elections. I wrote earlier about the experience of Dr. Gilbert Doctorow as one member of such a team. He was quite impressed with the integrity of the system. Since he is fluent in Russian (and quite a Russian scholar) he was able to go beyond just looking at how the integrity of the votes are preserved. He went out and spoke with citizens in Crimea. The U.S. allows no such observers. Joe Biden received more votes than anyone in the history of U.S. presidential elections. Just accept that.
Further, I have also mentioned the invasion of Iraq to which Bush accidentally referred. I have stated before that the late Colin Powell and his assistant Col. Lawrence Wilkerson admitted the so-called proof that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction was fraudulent. We killed close to a million Iraqis based on fraud. But George W. Bush, who was so proud when the murderous mission in Iraq was accomplished, tells us that Putin is the one who is evil.
I think I have mentioned before that my university degree was in psychology. Now, I never thought that having a B.A. degree in psychology qualified me to hang my diploma on the wall and start guiding people through life’s problems. But I did learn interesting things that I still think about. In studying the most influential minds that impacted psychology I usually could understand them and found them interesting, e.g., Skinner or Freud. But Carl Jung was tougher. Of course, you don’t have to be a psych major to know the name Carl Jung. He was hard for me to understand.
Jung apparently was aware that some people had trouble grasping his concepts. So he authored a picture book to illustrate aspects of his teaching on psychology. One well-known picture was of a young Adolf Hitler. Below the pic was the caption, “This man is going to set all Europe ablaze with his incendiary dreams of world domination.” Most Westerners saw the picture and thought, “Well, of course, you don’t need to be a psychologist to know that was what Hitler aspired to!” But then below the caption you learn the quote was not about Hitler. It was a quote from Hitler. The quote was what Adolf Hitler had said about Winston Churchill.
Jung used that picture and that quote to explain his understanding of psychological projection. We all, but particularly world leaders, tend to project onto others the evils of which we ourselves are guilty. Many called Bush’s statement a “Freudian” slip. I tend to see it as perhaps a “Jungian” slip. Is Putin really that evil dictator? Or has he become a convenient and acceptable target on the international wall for the projections of many Western politicians and pundits?