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December 06, 2011



Apparently, when they got 66% last time out, about 30-odd % were thought to be attributable to the "administrative resources". Reading straight across would suggest that the genuine UR vote has about halved and they're now about the size of the Communists or the Zhirinovsky fanclub (which is, according to Andrew Wilson, a virtual party).

No wonder the arseholes have been called out as a measure of precaution.


I wonder what could be the problem?


this twitter feed looks handy on police/arsehole operations. however this one is updating faster, and all the pictures it links show uniforms. I don't know whether they are Omon or army uniforms.

Dan Hardie

Yes. In related news, I predict that a) there might well be big trouble in Russia over the next 12 months but b) it won't be Putin picking fights with neighbouring nation states. Any trouble that does start will be either a big row with one or more of the national minorities within Russia (don't know where, but almost certainly within one or more places in the Caucasus), or Russian opposition parties scenting weakness and going for Putin.

Why no foreign wars or aggression? This is partly because the key issue for Russia in Ukrainian politics (the price the Ukies pay for Russian gas, and related matters of how much gas gets lost in transit across Ukraine) has been settled to Russia's satisfaction.

But mainly it's because the Russians only start a fight when gas and oil prices are high and they know that they have the cash for a war or a period of economic uncertainty. This has been true of Chechnya, Georgia, and the face-off with Ukraine.

Low gas prices don't just make it harder for Putin to start a war, however: they make it harder for him to bribe and coerce internal opponents. There is very likely to be trouble as a result. Perhaps it will be with the Medvedev faction, which is the first time Putin has faced opposition from within the oligarchy at a time when he's been economically weak.

And Putin will almost certainly get trouble from one or more nationalities inside Russia, probably in the Caucasus: Chechnya is one place to expect trouble, but it probably won't be alone.

Things have been getting more and more violent in the Caucasus for the last few years, not quite to the point of the Chechen war, but pretty bad. There's been a combination of local power struggles, jihadism, gangsterism and separatism that could get a lot nastier if Moscow has less money to pay off the local big men and fund its security forces.


Meanwhile, this has to be either the best photo ever, or possibly (given the source - the Russian-language skin of the RFE/RL website) the most subtle bit of colour revolution propaganda ever.

A troupe of "Nashi" (i.e. pro-Putin arseholes) playing the drums with some incredibly unenthusiastic "it's December in a large public square in Russia and they've not paid us yet" expressions, led by Darth Vader.


mainly it's because the Russians only start a fight when gas and oil prices are high

Not sure I buy this: the first Chechen war was in 1994 and the second one was in 1999, and both times oil was pretty low (around the $20 mark) and gas was low too. Remember that "Drowning in oil" Economist cover?


hmm, 1994 and 1999 were both in the old world of the relationship between the Russian state and Gazprom though; 2000 was the watershed year.

Dan Hardie

No, look at the 30-year price series for Russian gas.

The First Chechen War ran from December 1994 to August 1996. Prices for Russian natural gas were rising in December 1994 (and I think that the proportion of revenue that the Russian state was actually getting from Gazprom was also going up after the chaos of the immediate post-Soviet years). The war ended when Yeltsin appointed General Lebed, who effectively sued for peace.

The Second Chechen War started in August 1999, when Russian natural gas prices were at the start of a pretty sharp 2-year rise.

The South Ossetia War between Russia and Georgia took place in August 2008, when Russian natural gas prices had been rising very rapidly for four years and were about to reach their peak since the Soviets began large-scale gas exports.

The last confrontation with Ukraine took place when Russian natural gas prices were at their highest.

I think I would add the words 'or rising' to 'it's because the Russians only start a fight when gas and oil prices are high'. They definitely don't start a fight if gas and oil prices are falling or flat.


dsquared: well, that's even worse, because that gives us only an eleven-year period to look at, during almost all of which gas prices were rising (and including only one war). That's not much of a data set.

Dan Hardie

Again, look at the 30-year data set that I linked to above. The Russian state was getting revenue from Gazprom before 2000, although it got more after then.

(Quite how much more is largely a matter of conjecture, since although we know the size of the Russian state's holding in Gazprom at any one time, the word 'opaque' does not quite do justice to Russian the accounts of either the Russian state or large Russian companies.)


we know the size of the Russian state's holding in Gazprom at any one time

... but not necessarily vice versa ;-)

Given that the interpenetration of the Russian state, the Putin political apparatus and Gazprom is much greater than that of France, the UMP and Elf-Acquitaine, my prior on this one would be that nearly the entire free cash flow of Gazprom was at least in principle available for financing wars or bribing internal rivals.

Dan Hardie

Dsquared, that'd be my take as well.

I'm sticking by the principle that 'Russia gets more aggressive when oil prices are high or rising'.

However, since Russian gas export prices have been rising for the last 25 months, I'm withdrawing the prediction 'Putin doesn't get aggressive with anybody over the next year'. The prediction 'big chance of someone else deciding to mess with Putin' stands, though.


Don't know if the best time to OccupyMoscow is when Generals January and February are just round the corner.
I think I heard a BBC presenter refer to "anti-riot police" in Russia this afternoon, never having noticed the need for the qualifier before.


Don't know if the best time to OccupyMoscow is when Generals January and February are just round the corner.

True. But historically speaking, though, it's been a favourite. The Decembrist Revolt was in December 1825. Bloody Sunday was in January 1905. The February Revolution started in, well, actually it started in early March 1917 (blasted Julian calendar) but you see my point.


OK, and all of those were more in St Petersburg. But that's also pretty chilly this time of year.


"anti-riot police" presumably == OMON - I imagine "Ministry of the Interior Forces" is a bit long and obscure for a piece-to-camera on a windy street corner in a riot.


Arseholewatch: apparently, "if the cops were showing restraint the soccer hooligans weren't". Probably a good job Egypt's not in UEFA as the Spartak Moscow/Zawalek game would be seriously tasty.


I look forward to Obama condemning heavy use of police violence, followed by Hillary calling for Russia to allow public protest. If we're lucky it will be on the same day as a particularly nasty bit of police brutality in the USA.

Martin Wisse

Swear to god, seeing footage of riot cops manhandling protesters on the Beeb's six o'clock news and having missed this was Russia, I thought at first some other city in the US or UK was getting shirty with the Occupy protesters again.

Chris Williams

It's an converging socio-technical assemblage. I am drawn to genealogise it...

Everywhere is becoming the same as everywhere else so far as crowd control tactics go. Of course, this is shit in GB; in Novocherkassk, not so much.

Barry Freed

Everywhere is becoming the same as everywhere else so far as crowd control tactics go

Right, and as has been pointed out for some other policing situations by our host and his co-blogger: this is good news, for China.

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