In the wake of the Ukrainian crisis and the Russian “annexation” of the Crimea, there has been a certain school of thought out there that says Mr. Obama played Vladimir Putin for the fool, as Russian rhetoric about invasions of the Eastern Ukraine only served to pull Western capital out of Russia. This school of thought has it that the clever Mr. Obama, by not ratcheting up his own rhetoric, forced Mr. Putin’s hand as prices of Russian stocks began to plummet as Westerners pulled there capital. (See Vladimir Putin Has Been Outplayed by Barack Obama)
But what most people in the West do not yet “get” is that Mr. Putin is not simply “Mr.” Putin. He’s also been not only an academic, but an academic administrator, according to his own personal website:
Additionally, his thesis while at the University of Leningrad (St. Petersburg), “The Most-Favored Nation Trading Principle in International Law”(see the Wikipedia article on Mr. Putin), should give an indicator of why Mr. Putin has been carefully brokering various bi-lateral agreements with various nations, most recently China. In other words, we’re not dealing with a financial slouch. If anything, Mr. Putin has shown all the financial shrewdness of Martin Bormann, and the Ukrainian crisis was no exception, for while some are opining that Mr. Putin was handed a bone by the crafty Obama, the reverse is true: as Russian stock prices fell because Western investors were withdrawing their money and selling their shares of Russian companies, those shares were being bought up by, you guessed it, Russians and in particular, the Russian oligarchs:
Now, there is always method and calculation in Mr. Putin’s calm, smiling demeanor, as the following summary of what happened indicates:
“At the beginning of of the Crimean crisis, the rouble started to fall but the Central Bank of Russia did nothing to prop it up. Rumors started spreading that Russia simply did not possess the reserves necessary to maintain the rouble.
“These rumors and Putin’s declarations of intent to support the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine led to a plunge in the price of the shares in Russian energy companies, which made the “sharks” rush to sell their shares before they might lose their entire value. Putin waited a whole week, apparently doing nothing but smiling at press conferences (which was interpreted as trying to show a brave face), but when the shares almost touched bottom he gave instructions to rapidly buy them up from European and American owners.
“When the “sharks” realized they had been had it was already too late: the shares were all in Russia’s hands. Not only did Russia gained $20 billion in only a few days, it also brought home the market shares of its industries. Now the revenues from oil and gas will not stay stay in Russia rather than run abroad but the rouble has been restored without having to touch Russia’s gold reserves and the “sharks” have been thwarted.”
Regular readers here know that I’ve been warning for some time, with respect to the West’s use of covert operations to achieve objectives, that this is a dangerous game, and one that two people can play. Similarly, the manipulation of crises and public opinion – for the purposes of manipulating markets to achieve domestic and geopolitical agendas – is also a game that two people can play, and apparently, Mr. Putin just recently played that game, and played it well.
So let’s speculate a bit: Mr. Putin has, for the moment, decided against any further intervention in the Ukraine. And this has served him well, as the coup-government in Kiev has reacted to the revolt in the Eastern Ukraine with a heavy, Brussels-Berlin-Washington-inspired hand, with appropriate responses in public opinion. The question is, why has Mr. Putin backed off the Ukraine after his little stock coup? One answer might be that he is playing a very long term, strategic game, and is allowing the Ukraine to experience just what being a part of the grand Europaprojekt really means. And that will eventually backfire on the West, and on Europe. As nationalistic-populist revolts against Brussels spreads in Europe – witness the recent spate of elections in Europe – a Euro-disinchanted Ukraine will be nice leverage ready to hand.
Little wonder then that when the Bilderblitherers occasionally invite Mr. Putin to their soirees, he brings his own food and cooks. They might want to consider doing the same.
See you on the flip side.