Guest Post: Speedbox – Money money money

I’ve always liked, and believed in, the phrase: follow the money.  Almost every good and bad thing that happens in geopolitics has a dollar sign behind it.  It isn’t always obvious but money, and people scheming how they can get it, or how to keep it, is usually lurking in the background.  Money is the hand-in-glove of power.  Just ask the WEF.

The Russian invasion of the Ukraine places at risk the highly centralised system to control the country and dispense favours (ie. money) that Russian President Vladimir Putin has nurtured and maintained.  In turn, that begs the question whether Putin has gone too far this time and whether those with huge vested interests, such as the oligarchs, will move to protect their interests (money) if they perceive the structure is in real danger of collapse.

In other words, could the oligarch’s harness their obvious self-interest to subtly generate the conditions that displace Putin?  At first pass the answer must be ‘no’ but as billions of dollars vaporise before their eyes, not to mention the accompanying lifestyle, the power of money can make strange bedfellows.

Be assured that Putin’s power is absolute today.  He controls a collection of factions and institutions that compete for power to command the country’s security structures, government bodies and economy whilst he has positioned himself as the arbiter among these groups.  Not unlike a Tsar or King of yesteryear, Putin dispenses favours that distribute, or redistribute, wealth and positions of authority among the elite (his court).

While the balance among the most favoured has been relatively stable, that stability is under direct threat due to western sanctions which will undoubtedly change the country.  Stagflation is a possibility and its destructive impact may further unsettle a population who are already wary of the war with Ukraine.  Most Russians know ‘why’ the war has commenced but that acceptance may wear thin as an economic firestorm eats their living standards and savings with accelerating inflation coupled to a recession.

Russia’s relatively narrow reliance on energy and wheat to drive the economy, competition within the elite, potential regionalisation and even demographic shifts are all potential pressures.  The cost to the nation in terms of replacing lost war materiel will see an imbalance as some oligarch’s profit, whilst others will see the continued erosion of their influence (and money) due to international sanctions.  All of this may initiate a fragility not previously witnessed and only a decisive and heavy hand by Putin will suppress those pressures.

But that suppression may only be temporary before events spiral.

The average Russian citizen is watching their purchasing power collapse as the ruble goes into freefall.  Taxation revenue will contract and there is a real danger that as revenues fall, the Russian government will naturally drift to prioritising the remaining funds to bolster the federal coffers rather than those of regional centres.  A reduction in financing for the regions will inevitably lead to a consequent loss of amenity which may spark public protests.

We should also note that the proportion of adults born after the fall of the Soviet Union is a growing segment of the population.  Those individuals, whilst currently loyal to the Federation, may be less than pleased at rising costs, stagnant wages and the loss of local services when they have young families to feed.  Without the lived experience of the deprivations of communism, those same individuals are a relatively small but growing pressure group.  Moscow will undoubtedly crack down – creating even more fault lines.

The reasons for the invasion of Ukraine have been fully examined but it is self-evident that geography and demography will always compel Russia to prioritize its European frontier.  We can expect the USA to continue to lead the charge to promote instability and economic challenges via subtle and not-so-subtle methods which will whittle away at Putin’s Russia.  On their own, the sanctions will not dissuade Putin from the current path but even with Chinese assistance, the impact of the sanctions may grow to a malignancy that will eat away at the core of the nation and Putin’s grip on power.

Over time this may present itself as unrest in the Caucasus and Central Asian regions as they are destabilised by a mixture of domestic and external influences.  The US State Department must salivate at the long term prospect that the Russian Federation may fracture into independent Republics in a localised version of the collapse of the Soviet Union.  We can be certain the CIA are already war-gaming differing options and opportunities to cause internal Russian havoc.

Putin has bet everything on the invasion of Ukraine – from his status as President to the international reputation of Russian forces, the national economy and wellbeing of the Russian people to the very survival of the Russian Federation.  To Putin and his closest confidants in the government and the military, failure in Ukraine is not an option.  Nothing but complete achievement of the objectives will be acceptable.

However, whilst it is very probable that the Russian military will win the shooting side of the conflict, particularly once the supply of arms to Ukraine is choked off at the western border, winning the battle for the Ukraine does not mean Putin will win the economic war.  Sanctions will remain as the world largely refuses to accept that Ukraine sued for peace on anything approaching equitable terms.  Zelensky will make sure the world knows Ukraine was beaten into submission making the withdrawal of sanctions highly problematic.

The elite may wish to protect their positions by initiating and encouraging Putin’s replacement with someone from their cadre but they don’t hold all the keys.  Alternatively, if widespread population unrest and a flailing economy weakens Putin sufficiently, perhaps a more moderate politician will be able to harness the oligarch’s resources, particularly if promises to restore their personal treasuries appears realistic.

It may seem implausible (and even suicidal) today and none of it will happen in the short term, but will the undoubted power of money cause the oppressed, pauper and oligarch alike, to rise up?

24 thoughts on “Guest Post: Speedbox – Money money money”

  1. Putin has a fervent paranoia and a very strong grip on the military and security apparatus. His biggest risk is abject failure. Unfortunately, the most likely outlook as a long and terrible occupation and devastation of Ukraine.


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  2. Gonzalo Lira’s livestream

    Ukraine’s Secrets Are Coming Out

    was linked yesterday. The first secret, which was already known, related to the discovery of American financed labs in Ukraine working on weapons of mass destruction which, by the way, was the exact reason the U.S. used to invade Irac. But the second one is even more relevant. He said that it’s not getting much play here but is getting huge coverage in Russia and will reap enormous public support for Putin and his decision to invade. The Ukranian army was massing at the border of the Donbas and hard proof of their intention to attack has also been found.


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  3. A few hours ago I watched a video (and can’t find it now) where a female reporter or such has been stuck in Ukraine and says she has evidence that the Ukrainian government is attacking Ukrainians. Apparently this is nothing new and dates back to 2014.

    There seems to be much going on that’s not reported.


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  4. Great article Speedbox and well written! Whilst it is horrible to talk about an upside whilst ordinary people are suffering and being killed the fact is there are global positives – for citizens, not elites.

    1) The whole one-world thing, isn’t. We are not united.
    2) Multiculturalism is synonymous with utter failure. Again, always.
    3) Woke issues are a make-believe meaningless joke in the real world and only serve the purpose to divide and drag people down. Intentionally.
    4) Hydrocarbon based energy remains absolutely vital with no current viable alternative.
    5) Paper money (+gold and other commodities) remain king. Digital currency is vapour. Switch back to paper folks.
    6) Countrywide cancellation being tried for the first time – if this succeed it will not lead to good things in the future.
    7) Media cannot be trusted, on anything. They are 100% gov/globalist mouthpiece now. Never pay for media and always assume the opposite could be true or partly so.
    8) Don’t hate people or things just because you are told to without independently examining for yourself. In the 1930’s it was Jews, today Russians, tomorrow could be you.
    9) Australia has zero preparedness for hostilities and our leaders have no plan to improve this.
    10) Humanity is fundamentally flawed in moral character. All of us. Denial is futile. We are heading somewhere and it isn’t so good a place.

    And many other things. Such as lessons from the battlefield – the era of battle tanks is over, they appear not viable anymore. Besides guided munitions compact independent weapon systems and drones dominate. Military vehicle wise electric (and hydrogen) remains a joke, keep them for mardi gras floats.


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  5. bemused says:
    March 11, 2022 at 9:27 am

    A few hours ago I watched a video (and can’t find it now) where a female reporter or such has been stuck in Ukraine and says she has evidence that the Ukrainian government is attacking Ukrainians. Apparently this is nothing new and dates back to 2014.

    The Ukrainians have been at war with their ethnic Russian fellow citizens for many years, the country should have been partitioned a long time ago.


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  6. American financed labs in Ukraine working on weapons of mass destruction

    +1
    Absolutely. A week ago it was a conspiracy theory. It’s funny how these conspiracy theories are really just spoiler alerts.
    In making this public, how can anyone be on the side of the Ukrainian elites (whose strings are pulled by Western elites).

    In reference to whether the people of Russia will rise up against Putin. History shows that sanctions strengthen the national resolve and the hatred for those imposing the sanctions increases. Add this to the fact that every Russian now knows who the bad guys actually are and you now have the vast majority of Russian people standing behind Putin.

    Visa, Mastercard and SWIFT scored an own-goal as they have firmly stated they are not to be trusted with people’s capital and therefore there will be a flight of eastern capital to alternatives (such as AliPay and UnionPay). The end result will be a steadily lessening effect of economic and financial sanctions over time.


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  7. “Judge Dredd says:
    March 11, 2022 at 11:33 am “

    +1

    Also, Russian history since the time of the Czars has been that Russia is only “stable” when there is strong leadership. Since Putin has not only provided stability, but also GDP and individual lifestyle improvements, he gets good support. However much of a “sham” you may see democracy in Russia as, it risks disappearing completely if someone (oligarch or not) takes over without an election. Whoever that might be could easily be worse than Putin on several fronts.

    Furthermore, while sanctions may “bite” Putin by lowering his popularity, those same sanctions plus other policies in the US and Europe (that are not easy or fast to change) might see the US and EU also suffer drastically. Consider the Yellow Vest protests in France, and what a price hike ten times greater from Russian oil sanctions may cause.
    It’s not just oil and gas that is sky rocketing in price, it is also wheat. For the poorer nations this may be catastrophic – when food prices exceed 40-50% of income, revolution is not far away. What happens to “international sanctions” when such revolutions happen and Russia has plenty of wheat it is prepared to sell? Yeah – sanctions will fall apart.

    Putin/Russia have plenty of oil and food, and they may simply be able to out-last the “wests” taste for, and political will to impose, sanctions and/or the wests ability to push smaller nations to maintain sanctions. If China were to support Russia in this (and I would not be surprised if they do at some point), there may be a major re-alignment, globally – and the west will lose.

    Very complex, this geo-politics game. And very dangerous. Ignoring reality in this arena is almost universally a fatal mistake (sometimes, literally). Frankly, I do not trust that reality is high on the agenda of the wokesters in charge in most western nations at this time (including ours).


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  8. You just have to look at Iraq after they got rid of Hussein. Did that make the Middle East or the world a safer place? Sometimes it’s better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.


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  9. There seems to be much going on that’s not reported.

    Like the Ukrainians bombing civilians in the Donbas the week before the war started.

    Where was the outrage from Western politicians and media then?

    Western attempts at claiming the moral high ground here are pathetic.


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  10. “Western attempts at claiming the moral high ground here are pathetic.”

    Well, now you are aware of the propaganda, may as well look at RT.com too and see what the other side has to say – sure, it’s probably propaganda too, but you can get a fair idea of what’s really happening doing a comparison between both sides.It certanly seems no western media is prepared to show the “other” side, so…


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  11. I’m sad because I like Russians. The young ones we had working in our lab seemed to me much like the young Aussies in the 70’s and 80’s when I was that age.

    This mess is going to impact upon Russia very badly over the next decade whatever the outcome, and as a double whammy Russian demographics are really awful. Something like a third of Russian agricultural area has been abandoned because there’s no one to farm it.

    ‘Children of Men’ is really happening (10 Mar, via Powerline)

    Very well worth reading. It applies to Russia specifically, but the West as well. Also China.


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  12. Pointless reading any MSM, to have a look at the other side, might want to join the Intel Slava Z telegram channel, aggregates a lot of amatuer crowd sourced phone videos as well as frontline Russkie journalists as well as some propaganda pieces from the military. You’ll find plenty of terrifying videos of Ukrainian volksturm and territorial army units pulling civilians out of cars and literally gunning them down as they try to escape from cities. Usually videos are taken from apartment windows or nearby dashboard cams. Doing this to give themselves a human shield. There will be plenty of vengeance for these acts in the near future by the russkies. Comments are mostly in English, videos in Russian. Lots of battlefield action shots and destroyed Ukrainian equipment as well as up to date invasion maps from various sources


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  13. Judge Dredd says:
    March 11, 2022 at 11:33 am

    In reference to whether the people of Russia will rise up against Putin. History shows that sanctions strengthen the national resolve and the hatred for those imposing the sanctions increases.

    Ordinarily, I would probably agree with you on this point. But I’ve spent the last 2 days telephoning assorted relatives (in law) and friends. These are normal working people living in Russia. Setting aside their opinion of the invasion for a moment, they are all fearful of the impact the sanctions will have on their employment, prices at the market, savings and so on. To be fair, it isn’t just the sanctions but the ‘pile-on’ by international companies and other entities (including sports) who are closing their businesses/stores and rushing for the exits or, cancelling events/banning Russian athletes in other countries etc. (disabled athletes at the Paralympics – what a disgrace IOC). No matter what, the economic impact on individual Russians will be profound. The point of the post is to query whether, in time, the pressure amongst the public builds to a point sufficient to dislodge Putin. And don’t forget the oligarchs. Preposterous today, but in a year?

    Add this to the fact that every Russian now knows who the bad guys actually are and you now have the vast majority of Russian people standing behind Putin.

    Russians have always known who the bad guys are.

    I’m writing a post on the outcome of those telephone calls I mentioned.


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  14. Dover, you are right on so many points. Everything you speculate, may well come to pass. When an event develops out of so many variables, it is very difficult to predict the outcome.

    Somehow, however, I cannot see a popular uprising against Putin. Nor can I see any oligarch daring to challenge him, even as part of a pact with other oligarchs. Putin is too wily and experienced with dissent or ambition from the underlings. And he is so ruthless that it would be a brave individual to risk everything in order to preserve the existing pile.

    Still – we live in an very unstable era.


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  15. For the love of all that is holy, PLEASE stop using an apostrophe to indicate a plural. Every time it passes my eyes it distracts, and the whole context of the article is lost, forcing a return and start reading the paragraph again.
    Repeat: there is NEVER an apostrophe for a plural (only for contraction, and possession).


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  16. Vicki says:
    March 11, 2022 at 5:09 pm

    I cannot see a popular uprising against Putin. Nor can I see any oligarch daring to challenge him, even as part of a pact with other oligarchs.

    Agreed, never going to happen. All the oligarchs combined have insufficient resources to directly challenge Putin. He controls the State!

    What I suggested was that the combined interests of the oligarchs coupled with widespread dissent among the Russian people, might, just might, fund/fuel a popular uprising and only if Putin is sufficiently weakened. There are so many aspects that would have to align for such a thing to be possible, including the military, that this is a classic example of the swiss cheese principle (like Bradbury winning the gold medal at the winter Olympics). But the power of money can make strange bedfellows and we live in very strange times – so much so that little can be discounted.


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  17. dover0beach says:
    March 11, 2022 at 10:08 pm
    Speedbox, I read something Gray Connolly retweeted this week that suggested that the current run of oligarchs have more to lose, economically, by participating in a coup against Putin than not.

    Hmmm, maybe. I can only fall back to: it depends.

    Russians have been used to sanctions since….well….forever. They have become remarkably adept at working around them and this time they have China in their corner (for the time being). But, it isn’t just the oligarchs – the war is dividing the country.

    In my post I wrote “…..whilst it is very probable that the Russian military will win the shooting side of the conflict…… winning the battle for the Ukraine does not mean Putin will win the economic war” which is one of the most important sentences of the entire post.

    I have no doubt that Putin is well aware of the potential for unrest among the financial titans he created but he also has, say, half of a population that are suspicious of the war and fearful of the loss of their jobs, cash, services etc. They know well what inflation is and there are plenty who remember the meagre supplies in the shops and don’t want to return to it. Coupled with this, a large number of Russians have travelled – they have seen how ‘the other half live’ and they want it for themselves. Moreover, as as an increasing number of body bags return home to Russia containing the remains of young Russian soldiers, I think this will all act to weaken Putin domestically.

    At the end of the day, the most basic common denominator: ‘what about me?’ will come into play.

    The oligarchs will never confront Putin directly and a replacement may (will?) dismantle the system Putin created (or not). Sometimes I wish I had a time travel machine. 🙂

    By the way, I am writing two posts – one examines the durability of the relationship with China (remember what Lord Palmerston said) and secondly, I have spent 2 days on the phone with friends/family in Russia (normal people, not oligarchs). Their on-the-ground comments are interesting.


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  18. Speedbox:

    The oligarchs will never confront Putin directly and a replacement may (will?) dismantle the system Putin created (or not). Sometimes I wish I had a time travel machine. ?

    The oligarchs are quite well aware of Putins origins and how that impacts on their wealth.
    I think if they decided to not play ball, then Putins ex KGB friends who are now in secure well paying employment have not forgotten how a purge works – especially when it can be framed in an anti corruption campaign.


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  19. Winston Smith says:
    March 12, 2022 at 7:06 pm

    Agree with that. But, might those same ex-KGB cadre see an opportunity to align themselves with the potential incoming regime plus extract their financial pound-of-flesh from the oligarchs? In other words, “I’ll switch sides but I won’t do it for free”.

    It seems like a faint hope and readily acknowledge that, but I also don’t think there is too much that can be 100% ruled out.

    You know as well as most that in our murky world, money can bring about some very strange relationships when cash is flashed.


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