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Scenes from Putin’s Economic Meltdown

photo credit: Mitya Aleshkovsky

photo credit: Mitya Aleshkovsky

Get the hot deals while they last! Whatever’s on your holiday shopping list—buy now, it may never be this cheap again! In a single day this past week, the ruble exchange rate dropped from 59 to 80 to the dollar, further eroding confidence in the Russian economy and ensuring a deep recession next year—but also briefly turning Moscow into the shopping capital of the world.

Although this past week’s currency crisis marked the worst fall for the ruble since Russia defaulted on its debt in 1998, no one was waiting in bread lines or starting a run on the bank. Instead, anyone with any cash at all went on a buying spree. Long lines snaked through Ikea branches around Moscow into the early hours of Wednesday morning as people picked up furniture, bedding and other household goods at what had suddenly become bargain-basement prices. Crowds of eager buyers emptied shelves of computer monitors and snapped up flat-screen televisions at consumer electronics chains.

People were purchasing refrigerators, washing machines, cameras—anything that was less likely to lose its value as fast as the plummeting ruble. Cars in some dealerships were being sold at 30 percent to 50 percent above the recommended retail price, yet “people run and bring their last money,” one social network user wrote.

“Yesterday the line for the cash register was to the other end of the hall,” Ravil Daizrakhmanov, an employee of the consumer electronics store M.video, said Wednesday. “They were buying very expensive tech products.”

The ruble has lost over half its value this year as falling oil prices and Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis hit Russia’s energy-dependent economy. But a drop of 10 percent on Monday and another 10 percent on what has come to be known as “Black Tuesday” further shook consumers, undermined investor confidence and revealed divisions among the country’s elite on how to react. Nonetheless, Russians’ approval for President Vladimir Putin has remained sky-high.

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Cold War Echoes: Sochi Not Thawing US-Russian Relations

Photo Credit: APThe Olympic Games, created to bring countries together around sports, appear to be having the opposite effect on U.S.-Russia relations.

Rising animosity between the former Cold War powers was on full display Friday when Russia chose a former figure skater who tweeted out a racially charged picture of President Obama for the symbolic lighting of the Olympic cauldron…

To be sure, there are hard feelings in Russia toward the U.S. and the Obama administration, too.

Russian President Vladimir Putin hoped hosting the first Games since the 1980 Moscow Olympics, which the U.S. boycotted, would showcase a “new Russia” emerging from the ashes of the Soviet Union as he enters his 15th year in power.

Instead the U.S. and its western allies have consistently painted the picture of a corrupt autocracy.

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Trump: Putin Op-Ed Piece ‘Just Amazing’; Obama Making Us Look Bad

trumpDonald Trump said on Friday that President Barack Obama was being “outplayed” by Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose op-ed piece in The New York Times earlier this week was “just amazing.”

“We have a president that’s not looking very good,” the billionaire businessman told CNN. “It’s making us look very bad as a country — and, certainly, he’s looking very bad.”

Putin’s op-ed piece, published on Wednesday, was effective because “he said so much — and he said it in very nice way, but it wasn’t very nice at all,” Trump said. “It was tough. It was about as tough as you’re going to get. And Obama’s having a very tough time competing.

“The letter was very well-crafted,” he added. “This was about as well-crafted as you could’ve imagined. I don’t know if he wrote it, but it certainly was his thoughts. It covered so much territory.”

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Reagan was to Gorbachev what Putin is to Obama (+video)

Photo Credit: World Economic Forum Creative Commons

Photo Credit: World Economic Forum Creative Commons

Putin Didn’t Save Obama, He Beat Him.

With the Russian proposal on Syrian chemical weapons, the United States is being escorted out of the Middle East.

Maybe Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin really did discuss the idea of putting Syrian chemical weapons under international control last week on the sidelines of the G20 conference. Putin sure doesn’t care that Obama’s taking credit for the proposal, or that the administration is posturing like a Mob enforcer. “The only reason why we are seeing this proposal,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney, “is because of the U.S. threat of military action.”

Right, Putin is laughing to himself. Whatever. If Obama wants to sell it like a Christmas miracle on Pennsylvania Avenue that’s fine with Putin, because Putin won.

Reset with Russia was originally a strategic priority for the Obama administration because it saw Moscow as the key to getting Iran to come to the negotiating table. Putin, from the White House’s perspective, was destined for the role of junior partner. Now Putin has turned “Reset” upside down. By helping Obama out of a jam with Syria, Putin has made himself the senior partner to whom the White House is now beholden. Accordingly, when Putin proposes the same sort of deal with Iran, with Russia having established its bona fides as an interlocutor for Syria, Obama is almost certain to jump at it.

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Putin calls Kerry a Liar on Syria

Photo Credit: AP

Photo Credit: AP

Things aren’t exactly warming up between the Obama administration and Vladimir Putin, even as President Obama arrived in St. Petersburg for the G-20 summit.

Putin called Obama Secretary of State John Kerry a liar over Kerry’s testimony this week before Congress.

The question may be al-Qaeda’s influence on the Syrian rebels, an issue Kerry has downplayed.

Speaking to his human rights council Wednesday, Putin said, “This was very unpleasant and surprising for me. We talk to them (the Americans), and we assume they are decent people, but he is lying and he knows that he is lying. This is sad.”

Putin has criticized Obama administration claims that Bashar Assad’s government attacked the rebels with chemical weapons.

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Putin Claims Proof Syrian Rebels Used Chemical Weapons

putin_1Debate whether the Syrian government or the Syrian opposition used chemical weapons on civilians has been dealt a twist with a little-publicized revelation by Russian President Vladimir Putin his country has evidence chemical laboratories in Iraq produced weapons for the Sunni rebels.

Putin’s revelation came at the end of last week’s G8 Summit of industrialized nations and aligns with an earlier report out of the Middle East that former Baath regime officials of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who are Sunnis, are involved in the production and procurement of such weapons for those fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

“We know that opposition fighters were detained on Turkish territory with chemical weapons,” Putin said. “We have information out of Iraq that a laboratory was discovered there for the production of chemical weapons by the opposition. All this evidence needs to be studied most seriously.”

At the time of the press conference, Putin did not detail the sourcing of that evidence, the name or location of the laboratory. He is expected to hand off that data to the United Nations for further study.

The idea that Syria’s government used chemical weapons has been the foundation of a move by President Obama to decide to supply weapons to the Syrian opposition.

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Russia to Send Nuclear Submarines to Southern Seas

Photo Credit: Reuters

Russia plans to resume nuclear submarine patrols in the southern seas after a hiatus of more than 20 years following the break-up of the Soviet Union, Itar-Tass news agency reported on Saturday, in another example of efforts to revive Moscow’s military.

The plan to send Borei-class submarines, designed to carry 16 long-range nuclear missiles, to the southern hemisphere follows President Vladimir Putin’s decision in March to deploy a naval unit in the Mediterranean Sea on a permanent basis starting this year.

“The revival of nuclear submarine patrols will allow us to fulfill the tasks of strategic deterrence not only across the North Pole but also the South Pole,” state-run Itar-Tass cited an unnamed official in the military General Staff as saying.

The official said the patrols would be phased in over several years. The Yuri Dolgoruky, the first of eight Borei-class submarines that Russia hopes to launch by 2020, entered service this year.

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Russia’s Pravda Declares “Communism Won in America with Obama; US Suffering Has Only Begun”

In an extraordinary column last week, Russia’s de facto government press arm declared that the era of “Miss American Pie” was over in the U.S. Citing Obama’s reelection, Pravda stated that the “Communists have won in America…”

Why? Because the US is “an illiterate society” that continues to buy off on Obama’s “lies of less taxes while he raises them.” The US educational system is also held responsible, with Pravda stating that it was “conquered by the Communists long ago and history was revised thus paving the way for their Communist presidents.”

As you might have gathered, Pravda’s hit on Obama as a communist isn’t a glancing blow. It seems to be the overriding theme of the article:

He is a Communist without question promoting the Communist Manifesto without calling it so. How shrewd he is in America. His cult of personality mesmerizes those who cannot go beyond their ignorance. They will continue to follow him like those fools who still praise Lenin and Stalin in Russia. Obama’s fools and Stalin’s fools share the same drink of illusion.

Pravda also criticizes the growing American attack on religious freedom, saying that “Christianity in the U.S. is under attack as it was during the early period of the Soviet Union.”

The Russian article concludes with a frightening warning to Americans:

Russia lost its’ civil war with the Reds and millions suffered torture and death for almost 75 years under the tyranny of the United Soviet Socialist Republic. Russians survived with a new and stronger faith in God and ever growing Christian Church. The question is how long will the once “Land of the Free” remain the United Socialist States of America? Their suffering has only begun.

There’s no doubt that everything is not right in Russia. Nevertheless, it’s extraordinary that our formerly communist neighbor is now chiding the United States for moving in the same fatal direction of the former Soviet Union.

Russia Expands Treason Law, Critics Fear Crackdown

photo credit: mkooimanMOSCOW (AP) — Adding to fears that the Kremlin aims to stifle dissent, Russians now live under a new law expanding the definition of treason so broadly that critics say it could be used to call anyone who bucks the government a traitor.

The law took effect Wednesday, just two days after President Vladimir Putin told his human rights advisory council that he was ready to review it.

His spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies Wednesday that Putin would be willing to review the treason law if its implementation reveals “some problems or aspects restricting rights and freedoms.”

But what Putin might consider a problem is unclear. His opponents say a series of measures enacted since Putin returned to the Kremlin in May for a third term show he is determined to intimidate and suppress dissidents.

One recent measure imposes a huge increase in potential fines for participants in unauthorized demonstrations. Another requires non-governmental organizations to register as foreign agents if they both receive money from abroad and engage in political activity. And another gives sweeping power to authorities to ban websites under a procedure critics denounce as opaque.

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Kremlin Cheers Obama Election

photo credit: OneManDifferenceMOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent a congratulatory note to President Obama after his re-election Tuesday, his spokesman said. The Kremlin says it will make the text public after the Americans have received it.

Putin is also expected to call Obama personally “in the near future.”

“In general, the Kremlin took the news about Barack Obama’s victory in the elections very positively,” spokesman Dmitri Peskov said, according to the Interfax news agency.

“We have the hope that positive initiatives in bilateral relations and in Russian-U.S. interaction on the international arena in the interests of international security and stability will be developed and improved,” he added.

It is perhaps not surprising that the Kremlin is pleased with the outcome of the election, especially since President Obama told then-President Dmitri Medvedev earlier this year that he would have more flexibility after the election to negotiate NATO plans to place components of a missile-defense shield in Eastern Europe.

Read more from this story HERE.