“People always call it luck when you have acted more sensibly than they have.”
“Luck is a word the bitter teach the ignorant”
-Steve Maraboli; “Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience”
Perhaps this would be a good time to dispel any misconceptions about the quote which is attributed, each post, to Uncle Volodya. See, how it works is, I make an assessment of what is the overall theme of the post: betrayal, ignorance, overconfidence, whatever. And then I search for “Quotes about…whatever”. Goodreads is a very good source, and probably the bulk of them come from there; it combines pithy aphorisms from history – Franklin, Roosevelt, Bonaparte – with modern authors, so long as they are all talking about the same aspiration, human failure or behavioral habit. Occasionally, I simply make them up myself. The only thing all of them have in common is that Putin did not ever say any of them, unless by some chance he was quoting the same source I am.
Today’s Uncle Volodyaism is actually from Thomas Jefferson, perhaps the greatest of American statesmen, orators and free thinkers. And indeed there is likely a causal link between luck and hard work. And because I am a wiseass who derives a good deal of enjoyment from seeing pompous prognosticators infuriated by the world’s unwillingness to conform to their fortune-telling, it needs some context to showcase the rich irony that is apparent to me. And here it is.
“Putin has the luck of the devil,” said Mark Galeotti, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “He can just sit back and watch this richer, more powerful and legitimate values-based bloc tear itself apart.”
Here’s the thing about being cast as the villain – the more successful you are, the more determinedly the self-appointed do-gooders of the world harden themselves to have nothing to do with you, the while they happily disport themselves with dictators of the Arab monarchies, hole-and-corner coup winners and fabulously wealthy despotic oligarchs, just as long as all those people avow – publicly, at least – western values.
And Putin has been successful. “But he’s just a little thug, my dears!”, western leaders and their pet presshounds squeal whenever opportunity affords itself. He is, in fact, nothing of the sort. He has a reputation, probably well-deserved, for political ruthlessness when it is needed, and he has dismissed many officials without explanation, although few seemed to come forward to plead their case afterward. But per-capita GDP adjusted for PPP in Russia doubled between 1998 and 2008. How did his two mouthiest critics do? Neither achieved anything even close to that, and all three were assessed by the same authority; the World Bank. So the leaders of the UK and United States of America were less successful at raising living standards for their populations than a little thug was, I guess. Hard to draw any other conclusion, isn’t it?
Let’s take a look at the ‘legitimate values-based bloc’ Mr. Galeotti spoke of. But just before we do, I’d like to point out that the ‘legitimate values-based bloc’ he is referring to made not a murmur of demurral while Ukraine cut off electricity and water supplies to Crimea, in an attempt to make its inhabitants so miserable that they would revolt and come back to Kiev’s welcoming arms. Article 54 of the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions provides, in part;
2. It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.
Not only did the legitimate values-based bloc not say fuck-all about this gross violation of international humanitarian law, it took no steps whatsoever to rectify the situation for those whose supplies had been illegally cut off. Instead, it continued to yammer its official position, which was that ‘President Poroshenko has a right to protect his country’. A right that transcended international humanitarian law, apparently. Instead, it fell to the little thug to fix it. And he did.
The UK? Implemented a new law last summer which allowed the government to recover tax debts directly from citizens’ bank accounts. There’s your values-based safety net, kids – since the government determines what you owe in taxes, and then just goes straight into your pocket and takes it; sort of cuts out the middleman, what? The Netherlands proposed a law which would make keeping the password of your home computer a secret from the police punishable. They got around to releasing the draft proposals this year; the Netherlands is the most phone-tapped country in the world, with about 26,000 phone taps approved every year, although the freedom to communicate privately is guaranteed by the Dutch constitution. France adopted – without a vote – a new labour law which mandates longer workdays, easier layoffs, weaker unions and enables employers to let an employee go if they can find one who will work for less money. Sounds progressive, doesn’t it? More of that values-based leadership which lends the bloc its legitimacy. The legitimate values-based bloc cannot even get its stories straight: calling the EU “useless, corrupt and riddled with fraud“, former Thatcher press secretary Sir Bernard Ingham announced that the EU’s auditors had not signed off on its spending for 20 years. The state-funded BBC threw itself bravely on that grenade, reporting that the European Court of Auditors had signed off its accounts every year since 2007. But they must be talking about different procedures altogether, because the EU Observer announced in November of 2014 that the European Court of Auditors had refused to sign off on EU spending for the 20th year in a row, just as Sir Bernard said. They further disclosed that almost €7 billion of the EU budget was illegally spent in 2013.
But enough about the ‘legitimate values-based bloc’. Galeotti appears to be bitter and furious at Putin…why? Because he made all this happen? Because the richer, more powerful and legitimate values-based bloc is tearing itself apart because of something Putin did? Pretty clearly not, or he would not have said Putin could just sit back and watch while it tore itself apart. But Putin is assessed to have ‘the luck of the devil’, because Russia is not being torn apart like the EU is.
Well, that puts the whole thing in an entirely different light, doesn’t it? Watch the video clip which accompanies the article. Here’s the piece the host is talking about, by Ruchir Sharma, from Morgan Stanley. Try to forget for a moment that somebody from Morgan Stanley is praising Russia’s return to fiscal responsibility, considering that in the third quarter of 2015 Morgan Stanley’s revenues fell 13% while its profits were down 42% year-over-year.
We learn that despite an orchestrated campaign of international sanctions which were intended to crash the Russian economy, Russia is ‘in much better shape than other leading oil producers such as Saudi Arabia’. The Russian government – led by a thug, don’t forget – made ‘what is, in retrospect, a smart move’ by abandoning its efforts to prop up the ruble, and letting it devalue against the dollar. Indeed it was, since Russia extracts energy resources in rubles and sells them for dollars. The country which is led by a thug and was the focus of a concerted effort by the two biggest power blocs on the planet, the United States and the EU, paid down more than $200 Billion in foreign debt in 2014 and 2015.
“The economy is much more stable than it would have been had Mr Putin not listened to the advice of his technocrats, who advised restraint. With the help of tighter fiscal and monetary policy, inflation has fallen to an annual rate of 6 per cent, down from 15 per cent in 2015. Russia’s sovereign debt is only 11 per cent of GDP, and the premium to hold that debt, demanded by investors, is falling.
That suggests foreigners now see Russia as less likely to default. Russians are no longer shipping money out of the country quite so fast, either. Net capital outflows reached more than $60bn in 2014, as the country’s oil-induced problems became clear but have turned positive in some recent quarters.”
Uhhh….I have a question; what is a thug doing listening to anyone? ‘Cause, you see, I thought Putin was a dictator who didn’t listen to anybody, too busy prancing around with no shirt on and crushing everyone’s will to live to pay attention to advisers who are all members of his family anyway. You mean that’s, like, not true?
In fact, the ‘legitimate values-based bloc’ touted by Galeotti went along with the effort to destabilize and ultimately wreck Russia because Uncle Sam arm-twisted them into it, but the bloc’s leaders went along willingly enough because they are all part of the same circle of golden-child wastrels and pampered assrockets who are tearing apart their own clubhouse with their incompetence and hubris. While that was happening, Putin did not lose his temper and scream in frustration or hammer on the table with his shoe, or make any threats about burying anyone. He said Russia was willing to talk when the rest of the world was finished acting like Mrs. Simmons’ Grade Three class, and then he and his government advisers spat on their hands and got down to work making lemonade from the lemons they had been handed by their enemies. And now the west is reduced to pointing and squawking “Russia’s economy is showing weak growth!!” Gee, you think? Against what was supposed to happen, what kind of a result is that, would you say?
Which brings us right back to Thomas Jefferson, and how the harder you work, the more luck you have. The luck of the devil, you might say. But it helps if your enemies destroy themselves with their own stupidity.