T&B is always amazed at the ability of Westerners to see what they wish to see in Russia, whether or not it is actually there: The field of dreams!
Tarkovsky’s Solaris – the planet where one’s innermost thoughts, deepest fears, most painful memories take physical form and walk (T&B’s favourite movie, bar none!).
The “10 Days that Shook Facebook” anti-government demonstration last Saturday proved a damp squib.
Sorry. That is just how it is.
T&B has seen the aerial photos and the estimate of 25,000 demonstrators seems extremely generous – perhaps when you count the tourists and the vendors and journalists… But, okay, today we are generously inclined and so will grant you 25,000 – that accounts for 0.1% of Moscow’s population.
Quite fortunately, the authorities had the brains to step back and avoid gratuitous provocation, so it all passed off very peacefully.
A gaggle of Western hacks went home feeling that they too had finally gotten a chance to participate in history – press coverage will largely reflect their dreams of heroism.
One of our friends, on the Russia sales desk of a major Western institution, has just got back from marketing in the United States and tells us that 100% of the American accounts expect an imminent revolution in Russia…
Yes, we knew that marijuana has been essentially legalized in California, however we had not realized that its use was quite that widespread, nor that it had so affected the ability to process information.
The decline in the level of political discourse is truly appalling – given that a major US presidential candidate has been pushed out of the race, not because he demonstrated breathtaking ignorance by cautioning that “China was trying real hard to go nuclear” (something which actually happened in the late 1950s…) but because he (oh–my-god) had affairs!
The dumbing down of the American media, and the take-over of the mainstream press by major financial interests, has had a predictable effect; to expect rational analysis of complex foreign political issues is thus a bit too optimistic.
So all is well in Russia? Not really…
The elections represented not just protests against corruption, deeply uninspiring politics, bad weather, and a slowdown in economic growth (to a still respectable 4% per annum), but also far more importantly, a sharp reaction against the liberalizing, pro-Western line embraced by President Medvedev. We remind the reader that the liberals of Yabloko took a thumping 3% of the vote – the Communists and Hard-Line Nationalists a combined 33%. This is no Orange Revolution…
Russian politics is about to become a lot more “interesting”. “Democracy” requires that the government respect the wishes of the electorate, and the KPRF/LDPR electorate does not wish to cuddle up to NATO, render Ayn Rand obligatory reading in high-schools, privatise Gazprom, nor allow the West a free hand in the CIS. Quite frankly, it represents an aspect of the Russian body-politic which T&B would rather forget – as would most of our readers, even those who disagree with us most strongly regarding the rest.
Investment implications are pretty much nil – much ado about very little. One can expect a somewhat more stimulatory fiscal policy, with a shift towards a more statist model.
Given our (once again, verified) bullish call on oil, there is no threat to Russian macroeconomic stability within the foreseeable future.
That said, the mood among foreign investors will be sour, leaving the less excitable among our readers the opportunity to pick up some cheap assets. For now – given the havoc in Europe – T&B will stick to the bonds.
Happy FB Posting!
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