American Expat Enclave… in Russia?

While it’s difficult to discern truth from propaganda when it comes to Russia, there are some observations and announcements worth taking seriously.

M​ay 15, 2023

B​y: Bobby Casey, Managing Director GWP

russia Russia was always tough to understand. You never knew if stuff in the media was propaganda or real. The US and Russia have had a rather tumultuous relationship. It’s never been “good”. The US has gone between adversarial and civil, at best.

T​he cynic in me can’t help but wonder if the media follows the general flow of the political winds. If the US is on a “hate Russia” tear right now, then the articles all say how great the US is and how horrible Russia is. If they’re being “cordial” with Russia, then they don’t necessarily edify them, they just pick on another country.

T​hat’s the thing though, right? You never really see anything flattering Russia. The US has a similar relationship with China, except they also had a period where they gave China “Most Favored Nation” status. Americans are rhetorically more cautious about how they talk about China, as well.

Remember John Cena? Enes Kanter?

Americans are the largest carriers of US federal debt. China is second. I guess the US can’t afford to chide China too much.

S​o what’s the deal with Russia? Well, they are at war with Ukraine. It turns out you don’t even need to be a NATO nation to get military aid to fight Russia.

T​he story behind that isn’t as clear cut as Russia Bad, Ukraine Good.

Russia was already being positioned as a bad actor during the Trump election with the whole “Russia Collusion Hoax”.

T​he other is the expansion of NATO. That’s the equivalent of your younger brother putting their finger one millimeter from your face and saying “I’m not touching you! I’m not touching you!” It’s antagonistic and ridiculous to say otherwise.

T​hen there’s the issue of a Russian military base already being there, as well as Russians who would rather be part of Russia than Ukraine which traces back even further to a time when they were in fact part of Russia.

T​his isn’t a hall pass for Russia. It’s seeing that people don’t have to support Russia to understand what’s happening, and it might even be an indication countries like the US stay out of situations where no clear cut benefit for them exists.

T​he US has slapped sanctions on them, which hasn’t had the devastating impact they were hoping.

The sanctions, imposed largely through executive orders, are meant to punish Russia and block its access to the international financial systems and bank accounts that it needs to finance its war effort. Export controls also limit its access to computer chips and other products needed to equip a modern military.

It’s not great, but the ruble isn’t much worse off than it was before the war, and they’ve managed to keep trade going with other countries:

Other large economies such as India and China have not only increased their purchases of Russian oil, but they are also making their payments in local currencies. This acts as a way around the removal of Russian banks from the international finance system, SWIFT.

In addition, much of Europe including Germany and Italy remains heavily reliant on Russian gas exports — where prices remain high — making it difficult to cut back consumption in a more meaningful way.

Many of Russia’s other neighbors — such as Turkey, Belarus and Kazakhstan — are also increasing trade with Russia in products targeted heavily by Western sanctions.

T​he sanctions were sold through as “a new kind of economic statecraft with the power to inflict damage that rivals military might,” by President Joe Biden. I hardly think this is having that profound of an effect. The AP goes on to say:

The ruble trades around the same 75-per-dollar rate seen in the weeks before the war, though Russia is using capital controls to prop up the currency. And while Russia’s economy did shrink 2.2% in 2022, that was far short of predictions of 15% or more that Biden administration officials had showcased. This year, its economy is projected to outperform the U.K.’s, growing 0.3% while the U.K. faces a 0.6% contraction, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Like I said, who knows. This too could be total propaganda for all I know. But from what is at least observable, it’s not looking like the sanctions and the war are taking the kind of toll the West was expecting.

Russia is like a cast member in the movie “Usual Suspects”. It’s got a bad track record on some stuff, and it’s easy to point at them when bad things happen. But what I think makes it inequitable is, Russia isn’t just a “usual suspect”. They aren’t allowed to balk, push back, respond, or get upset when things are done to them.

S​o now they are the fall guy and the baddie no matter what? That just doesn’t set right. But all this is just politics. It’s rich men in suits bickering over control using poor men in ghettos as fodder. I find myself defending indefensible people, leaders, and nations when they are attacked for illegitimate reasons. And I hate it.

Here’s the widest part… and a response I utterly didn’t expect!

Released in an issue of Moscow Times on May 11, 2023:

Russian authorities will launch construction of a village outside Moscow for conservative-minded Americans and Canadians next year, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported Thursday.

I​t got picked up by the Daily Beast and Business Insider of course because nothing beats a headline like Russia sympathizes with American right-wing extremists.

Maybe that too is some wild spin job by Russia to make themselves out to be more desirable than they are?

A​gain, I don’t know! But what a totally unexpected response toward a country that is currently financing its wartime rival, Ukraine, hand over fist.

I​t’s not been officially announced, but apparently there is a green-light to move forward.

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