Russia’s main hope for economic survival is the release from US sanctions. “Adoptions” is code for “lift the sanctions.”
We recently took a Baltic Sea cruise that included several days in St. Petersburg, Russia. In between the glittering highlights of that fascinating city, we caught the glimpses of what life is like for people who live in Russia.
Several were astoundingly open with us about their lives and about how they feel about Putin and about Trump.
Here’s a summary:
Nearly everyone gets wasted on cheap vodka every weekend. It’s their release.
Housing is miserable. Some people still live in Soviet-era communal apartments, i.e., 10 or more people, not necessarily related, in a three-room apartment, sharing a kitchen and a toilet. They don’t leave because there is no other housing available. No one lives in detached housing. It’s all apartment dwellings. It is possible to buy an apartment, but most can’t afford it.
In every room in every museum sits a dour and unhappy woman. She is angry because she was probably a professional of some sort, and then discovered that her pension, long promised by the Soviet and then Russian government, was so small that she had to find a job after retiring.
The lowest paid people in Russia are doctors and teachers. The highest paid are police officers because they routinely shake everyone down that they arrest and get rich off the bribes.
Russians state with certainty that everything Putin says is a lie and that neither he nor the Russian press can be trusted in any way.
Russians also know that Putin is getting massively rich off their backs–our guides estimate Putin’s personal wealth at 70 Billion US dollars.
Russia itself is in terrible shape economically and getting worse daily. Their major export is oil but the price has to be $100/barrel for them to recoup their investments in the infrastructure of drilling and transportation. Oil has been sitting at $50/barrel or less for a number of years now. The state is bleeding money.
The necessity of lifting US sanctions
Because of this, their main hope for economic survival is the lifting us US sanctions against them. And here’s the key: the issue of US sanctions and the adoption of Russian children by US citizens is inextricably linked. So, when a Russian official wants to talk about “adoption” it is code for “how do we get you to lift those sanctions?”
Putin did get elected by 80% of the vote. Here’s how. The military force is Russia is huge. All members of the military were bussed to the polling places to find their ballots pre-filled out with Putin as their candidate. They “voted” with those pre-filled ballots.
Employees of state-owned industries (most Russian businesses still although some free enterprise is showing up) had the same experience.Of course, Putin got 80% of the vote. The fact that he got only 80% reflects that fact that those who could actually vote cast their ballot for Putin’s opponent.
As for Trump, Russians desperately want him to lift those US sanctions but see him as so personally unstable and unreliable that they don’t see much hope of it happening. They are horrified at the thought that Putin did interfere with the US election because it makes Putin even more terrifyingly powerful than he already is.
Their summary of their lives, “We are not free and we know it.”
Our current POTUS and his debts to Russia
One of the big concerns I have had with the election of our current POTUS has been the extent of his personal and business debts to Russia and/or Russian-backed financial institutions. His refusal to disclose those details poses huge problems for the rest of us.
Trump is driven by money and greed. He has also boasted many times that he embraces debt with enthusiasm. The oldest son, Donald Jr., said in 2008, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” and “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
As a businessman, there is not one thing wrong with that, assuming the money is clean and the businesses are not being used for some sort of money laundry operation. That’s a big assumption where Russian money is concerned.
No matter what, as the POTUS, that kind of debt poses a different scenario and one that makes the Trump/Putin romance far more plausible. Unfortunately, it is highly likely that Putin and his henchmen own Trump, his sons, and his son-in-law. Such a scenario does not play out well for US interests.
My fascination with Russia
I have been reading both Russian literature and books about Russia for over 45 years. I admit to being fascinated by this vast country.
One of my long-held dreams has been to take the six-day trans-Siberian railway from Moscow to Vladivostok. I mentioned it to a young woman from Russia who was visiting my son’s house in London. Her response, “If you want to do that, you MUST have protection or you will be robbed and probably hurt along the way. If you decide to do it, get in touch with me first. I have an uncle in the Russian Mafia–he will arrange whatever you need so you can travel more safely.”
That’s what Russia is like today. This was the only Baltic city we visited where we were NOT instructed to put on our seat belts in the tour busses. Human life is far more dispensable here. No one really cares. It’s the one city where we had to carry our passports with us and where we were constantly warned about pickpockets and the dire consequences of losing those passports.
Other than the glittering tourist spots, much was dirty and run down. St. Petersburg has been called “the city built on bones” because of the immense cost in human lives by the serfs who were forced by Peter the Great to build it out of swampland.
The fact that our current POTUS feels he can trust the words of the man leading this slowly imploding place scares me to death.