Musings —03.10.2014 07:09 PM—
Dear Barack Obama, Stephen Harper et al.:
We sense Vladimir Putin is making you angry. Even worse, we sense that he is – once again – making you look like a band of powerless eunuchs.
As he did over Syria. As he did with Edward Snowden. As he did with his gay-hating laws leading up to Sochi. As he even did with that female punk rock band, Pussy Riot – when he defied popular culture deities like Madonna, U2 and Bruce Springsteen.
Putin has made all of you – all of the civilized world, in fact – look pathetic.
Every time he does something outrageous, we raise our voices in protest. And, every time, he keeps on doing what he is doing – laughing at us. Ignoring us.
With his invasion of the Ukraine, he is repeating his tried and true formula. He is expecting the West to act like we have done in the past. That is, say much, but do very little.
We know you don’t want a war with Russia. No one does. But, if any of you were in any way intelligent, you’d simply ask your own citizens for advice.
Because average citizens already know how to bring Putin to heel.
Go to L.A. or the Big Apple. Go to London or Paris or Palm Springs. In each of those places, you’ll hear the same thing: the local language, to be sure.
But the second language-of-choice? It’s Russian.
Those places are overflowing with the new Russian bourgeoisie. They are loud and boorish and easy to spot. And they have money. Lots of it.
Most of them owe their newfound largesse to Putin. They give him their allegiance, and he in turn bestows upon them riches.
They then – pay attention, here – invest those riches in Western banks. Not Russian banks. There was a flight of capital from Russian banks about six years ago. Ever since, the new Russian moneyed class have parked their riches abroad.
In the West.
You can deny visas to powerful Russian officials, to be sure. You can expand the U.S. Magnitsky Act, and cause discomfort to some of those same officials.
You can (and should) revisit Obama’s decision to “reset” relations with Russians, and go ahead with deployment of ballistic missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic. You can (and should) kick him out of the G8, and abandon plans to attend a meeting of world leaders in Sochi in June.
But Putin has probably anticipated each of those things. He’s a canny little bastard, after all. What he has not anticipated – and what he cannot contain – is the panic that will grip the new Russian oligarchs when their bank accounts in Miami and London are frozen.
And don’t just stop there, either: bring down a regulatory hammer on the property that Russians have snapped up in the West. Squeeze them until they squeal.
There’s a reason, world leaders, why there was a bloodbath in Russian markets on the day the Crimea was invaded. There’s a reason why there was a massive sell-off in Russian equities, and why the ruble plummeted to an all-time low.
The reason is this: Putin may WANT a new Cold War. But the people who prop him up, the new Russian overclass?
They can’t AFFORD one.