Israel Shamir: What Can Christmas Trees Tell You About The Russian Economy

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Israel Shamir for Komsomolskaya Pravda

Our columnist contemplates about what concerns commentators in December 2014.

Dark snowless December in Moscow makes one feel blue. Liquid dirt under the tires, eternal traffic jams, early sunset and late dawn will bug anyone. Columnists and commentators – not only Westerners, but also the real patriots-vatniki are forecasting the coming of a fluffy Northern animal [which in Russian is synonymous with ‘catastrophe’]. The word with six stars, guesses Dmitry Glukhovsky, the inevitable Russian fate: “when oil crashes back to hell, when the sand house of our economy dries and cracks without oil, when the presumptuous alpine climber -ruble plunges into an icy abyss, we nod grimly to each other: Yes, this is what we were waiting for.” And in “Komsomolskaya Pravda” my colleague Ulyana Escobeda was horrified: “The nineties are back.” With their poverty and darned stockings. At a Christmas exhibit of small format “postcards” at the Literature Museum on Arbat, Alexander Shirnin depicted the approaching end as a rhino rushing towards us.

No, dear friends and readers. He is not rushing at us, it’s us who are rushing. We are him – for them. Screams in the Western press and in social networks, the resolution 758, declaring war on Russia – these are the signs of a collapse, but the collapse not of Russia. All empires come to an end, the liberals like to say, and now comes the end of the liberal American Empire.

In the entire world, subservient to America – from riots in Ferguson to discontent in France, there is a growing anticipation of the collapse of the dollar pyramid. This is why there is so much anger on Capitol Hill. America only knows how to print dollars and saber-rattling, to blackmail and bribe politicians, to provoke conflicts and to bomb the defenseless. When was the last time you saw something made in America? It lives on credit, and its excessive debt of $17 trillion will bury it as soon as a leader emerges, able to resist it. Russia, the political leader of the BRICS and the majority of mankind, is close to overthrowing the American yoke.

The current American offensive resembles the Ardennes in December 1944, exactly 70 years ago, when seemingly defeated Reich struck a powerful blow and overran the Anglo-American troops. But these temporary successes did not change the result. The Reich fell, the American Empire will collapse as well. “America is dated and degraded” – wrote to me one of the leading American politicians, “Independent Russia is a remedy against the risks of a unipolar world. Many countries would not have achieved political independence, if not for the second pole of the time – the USSR. And now America can no longer rule, but can do a lot of damage at the end.”

Russia is in good condition. Her captain is firmly holding the steering wheel. You can disagree with his domestic policies, but his skill in foreign policy is undeniable. He is supported by freedom-loving forces in the United States, Europe … everywhere.” In Latin America they almost worship him. Iran and China know his will. He is coping with falling oil prices, while the Soviet leaders could not.

Putin could not stop the falling oil prices. Demand for oil is declining due to the upcoming industrial crisis in Europe, but supply is growing, thanks to US shipments. But it is not that bad. The drop in prices can revive the industry not only in the West, but in Russia, provided that the government will not allow to raise the prices of petroleum products on the domestic market.

The ruble fell against the dollar – to the same extent as the oil, and this means that depreciation is intentional, and not out of control. If the ruble remained high and the oil – low, all Russian savings would have gone down a black hole. The fall in oil prices has its pros – otherwise the Russians could only lay on the [Russian] oven, like Emelia.

And so the ruble is too high. The problem of currency misalignment is that anything can be imported cheaper than produced at home. The New Year is coming, but this great North country is importing Christmas trees from Denmark and Holland. This means that the ruble is overvalued even after its fall. Until I see the Russian Christmas trees on sale at an affordable price – I will not believe that the ruble had collapsed.

The high ruble has generated thousands of small land-lords, and simply parasites, making a living by renting their apartments. They moved from Mitina to Goa, and their apartments got occupied by ten immigrant workers at a time. The fall of the ruble would at the same time send the workers home to their sunny republics, and save the owners of Moscow apartments from parasitism and cirrhosis.

The exhausting Ukrainian story has been put on a back burner, and will probably stay there for a while. And there is no reason to blame the Russian government. Moscow tried not to interfere in Ukrainian affairs, unlike the West, which interfered from the very beginning. A great success for Putin will be to put off a large full-scale war in Ukraine, at least until spring.

Sanctions and contra-sanctions brought new Russian products to the store shelves. Finally at the elite “Scarlet Sails” appeared local meats, local vegetables, Asian vegetables (much tastier then European). And this is very good. Even the famous jamon can be easily produced in Russia – we have pigs, cold climate, barns, and you don’t need anything else.

It’s not a catastrophe. Just a December pre-Christmas blues on a national scale, due to lack of sun and light. Nothing wrong with that – Christmas will pass, and the sun will return. Somewhere by March you will not even understand, while re-reading old entries – what scared you so much in December 2014?

Translated by Kristina Rus for

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