Guest Post: Speedbox – Postcard from Kislovodsk Redux

Cascade Stairs, Kislovodsk

Mrs Speedbox is back in Kislovodsk, Russia.  I wasn’t able to travel due to work commitments and on this trip she will catch up with her numerous friends and the remaining relatives in the city.  Our youngest Miss Speedbox has accompanied her on this occasion. 

In my phone/video calls with Mrs Speedbox, I have been particularly interested about life in this small city (pop 140,000) now that the conflict with Ukraine has been ongoing for six months accompanied by wide-ranging sanctions.   Cats may recall that Mrs Speedbox was also in Kislovodsk in April this year.

I have referenced a couple of comments from my post of April for comparative purposes.

1.  During one of our video calls, Mrs Speedbox walked around the main town square/CBD of Kislovodsk and it was filled with people.  The shops were trading; there were street musicians; pop-up stalls, local artists painting and selling their wares, the cafes were bustling……

1A.  No significant change except people are wearing warmer clothing outdoors given the shift in seasons from her visit earlier in the year.   The number of street musicians/artists is thinning as the weather cools.   The market is brimming with fresh foods and other goods although the prices have noticeably increased on some products.

2.  Enterprising Russians are travelling into Europe and buying large numbers of goods.  Want an new Apple phone?  Sure, still in its sealed box.   Want a new Audi, Renault, Toyota etc.?  Sure, what colour?  Let me check with my dealer in Austria/Germany/Turkey etc.

2A.  This practice continues unabated but appears to have focussed itself as the bulk of the supply of western goods now primarily originates from Turkey.  

——-

Everybody is now certain that the conflict in Ukraine has become a war by proxy with the USA but there is no question, none, about Russia’s eventual triumph and the hoped for collapse of the Federation is merely the dream of some stupid westerners. 

More broadly, there is a palpable shift in perception/realisation that is fuelling a ‘defend the Motherland’ mindset.   The recent mobilisation of military reserves is fully supported and some local men who were not called up have volunteered and were accepted.  Furthermore, this has reputedly occurred in towns/cities throughout the region and whilst the official call-up is 300,000 persons, the actual number re-inducted into the Russian military is expected to be well in excess of that figure.   (Remember that virtually all men have military experience and for all its acknowledged faults, it is still a revered institution among most Russians).

Overall, it appears that the Ukraine conflict continues to have limited effect on the residents of this small city and the impact of the sanctions is nominal.  However, and despite this apparent calm and business-as-usual, the awareness that Russia is under increasing NATO (read USA) threat has taken a marked step forward and that threat is not being treated casually.  Russians are certain for example, that the bombing of Nord Stream 1 & 2 was an American action.  They are also aware that extensive American military intelligence is being provided to Ukraine and that the CIA is agitating certain groups to take terrorist action within Russia.  Meanwhile, highly sophisticated cyber-attacks on Russian infrastructure systems have increased exponentially.  The USA is believed to be sponsoring, if not directly responsible for, the increased cyber activity.

As has been noted a number of times: Not all Russians love Putin, but all Russians love Russia.  Therefore, this shift in the public’s threat awareness is immensely dangerous for the Ukraine as it provides fertile ground for President Putin to harness public support for increasing Russian engagement.   Putin’s earlier forecasts about NATOs encroachment and the threat this will deliver to Russia is coming true before their eyes.  Yet Ukraine is merely the battlefield where a much larger clash is being fought out.

Further reports in due course.

31 thoughts on “Guest Post: Speedbox – Postcard from Kislovodsk Redux”

  1. The question being studiously avoided is:

    What is the role of China in all this?

    Beijing has been steadily making “political investments” globally for decades. They essentially own Kanaduh, Oz, Un Zud, and sundry chunks of Pacifica, South America and Africa, to name a few. The saga of the Pelosi and Biden cartels in this adventure is still a little murky, but there are definite “clues”.

    If both the Untidy States and the old Russian Bear can be “sidelined” with a few creative “internal issues”, China is free to finish stitching up every key shipping hub and sea-lane, a big proportion of the global supply of strategic minerals, and so on.

    ALL must pay tribute to the Emperor of the Central Kingdom.


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  2. Shy Ted says:
    October 24, 2022 at 8:37 am
    Do you call yourself Speedbox because you own a Lada?

    No, but my wife’s late father owned an old Lada taxi that I wanted to buy and import to Australia. It was yellow, with signage (in cyrillic) on the doors saying ‘Taxi’, a small illuminated Taxi sign on the roof, a meter (which didn’t work) and a huge steel whip aerial on the rear bumper. Left hand drive of course. A bloody classic.

    I could have had it for about $1,000 but about six years ago he became ill and sold it suddenly as he needed the money. I didn’t know it had been sold until after the transaction had taken place. As a car it was near worthless but as a piece of motoring memorabilia, I thought it was ‘priceless’.

    I’ve always wanted to buy a Zil. Depending on the providence of the vehicle (ie. which member of the Politburo used it), they range in price from about $50k but the ones that carried, say, Brezhnev, can be a few hundred thousand dollars. It just depends on the auction, on the day.


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  3. This practice continues unabated but appears to have focussed itself as the bulk of the supply of western goods now primarily originates from Turkey.

    Turkey has benefited from the sanctions and its role will increase into the future. Turkey will become the hub for Russian gas supplies to Europe, TurkStream will be largely expanded and there will be no further gas pipelines through Ukraine or the Baltic Sea, everyone must now deal with Turkey.

    This will significantly increase Turkish influence in Europe, they will control the taps for Russian gas in addition to controlling the tap for “refugees” heading into Europe. I don’t think the EU countries really thought through the possible consequences of their sanctions.


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  4. Thanks Speed box.

    Putins speech a few weeks ago why he was not standing for the Ukrane situation measures up with your reprot – This is a USA v Russia war with the Ukrane the battleground.

    Try and argue this at see what happens to you.


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  5. dover0beach says:
    October 24, 2022 at 10:27 am

    Yeah, shocking isn’t it!!! 🙂 I know you get it Dover but most westerners have no idea. They still think Russia is some dour, miserable place occupied by dour miserable people. Moscow and St Petersburg are vibrant world cities.

    As I mentioned in my post, Mrs Speedbox visited the market a couple of days ago and it was full of produce and all the other stores around the town are all well stocked and busy. Mrs Speedbox is also spending quite a bit of time in nearby Pyatigorsk (pop 150,000) as Miss Speedbox is having some specialist sports training from a former Russian Olympian whilst she is away. Mrs Speedbox reports that the Pyatigorsk stores mirror those in Kislovodsk in terms of quantity and quality.

    Two clarifications: there are some parts of Russia, and of some cities, where the population are not doing well. Life for them is a struggle but this is hardly a unique feature of Russia. Secondly, Russian wages are lower than those enjoyed in Australia so prices reflect spending power. But, you will have noticed the huge selection of local brands that bear an uncanny resemblance to our common brand names. Russians have long been adept at self sufficiency (50 years of cold war sanctions will do that) so the current batch of sanctions are, for the average Russian, irrelevant.

    And, as mentioned, western goods continue to enter Russia, albeit by unconventional means. For those who want ultra high end goods (Rolex; Prada; Fendi et al) will merely travel to Austria/Germany/Switzerland and elsewhere to buy it.


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  6. Speedboxsays:
    October 24, 2022 at 1:18 pm
    dover0beach says:
    October 24, 2022 at 10:27 am

    Yeah, shocking isn’t it!!! ? I know you get it Dover but most westerners have no idea. They still think Russia is some dour, miserable place occupied by dour miserable people. Moscow and St Petersburg are vibrant world cities.

    Speedbox,

    Moscow and St Petersburg are vibrant world cities.

    That is exactly what my Wife and I thought when in late 2108 we went on a Volga Dreams River Cruise from Moscow to St Petersburg

    We chose Volga Dreams because unlike Viking where you stay on the River Cruise Boat in Moscow & St Petersburg and are bussed in every day, we stayed in The Marriott Royal Aurora in Moscow and Kempinski Hotel Moika 22 in St Petersburg, as my wife gets seasick and preferred Land to Sea

    Turns out great move, superbly located and we loved the Vibrancy, Youth & Enthusiasm of the young people we encountered in Restaurants, Guides, and Nightclubs and. were surprised by the mono ethnicity of those Russian Cities – could have been in the Northern Beaches Sydney

    During the Cruise we had Guest Lecturers and the older ones tended to pine for the Communist Days, but the younger ones, positive about the future.

    https://www.volgadream.com/russia-river-cruise-ports-of-call/

    If you click on the interactive map on the above link, the Cruise Towns visited showed an older side of Russian Life and was enjoyable

    As Volga Dreams says on the Interactive Map

    Moscow

    We love hearing from guests about their time in Russia and one comment often hear is how surprised people are by the Russian capital. We can’t say for certain what people expected but we do know that it’s always far removed from what they imagined! It’s been called a modern metropolis, a cosmopolitan city, an historic gem, an architectural treasure and a cultural powerhouse, among other descriptions. Majestic Moscow has always surprised our guests and left them with lasting and fond memories.


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  7. I see so much propaganda regarding the dumpster fire that is Ukraine that I no longer pay attention to it . Bruce’s comment regarding ” Vertska” indicates he isn’t there yet – “Founded by independent journalists and part of the gender literacy project team” tells me where this originated . The stupid policies of Europe ,UK and USA are going to bite hard unless someone can control the deep state . As stated above Russia won’t suffer much as sanctions have encouraged self sufficiency . If China grabs Taiwan all hell will break loose .


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  8. “..and some local men who were not called up have volunteered and were accepted”
    It would be interesting to get some quantification around this. If for arguments sake they drafted 1,000 conscripts out of this city and got a dozen hard line fanatic volunteers then this is still a 99% non voluntary force. If it is say 200 volunteers versus 1000 conscripts that would be impressive but if Putin knew he could get that many volunteers I doubt he would have needed or used the draft.
    My guess also is at this point most Russians do not know someone who has died in Ukraine. Over time that will change to everyone does. That could still be a year plus away however. Both sides of this argument are probably claiming too much to soon.


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  9. Old Goat – I’ve also seen reports of unrest in the Buryat republic, which is a source of some of Russia’s best tankers. The Russian homeland is fine, the issue is always the periphery and a certain excitable religion.


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  10. The recent mobilisation of military reserves is fully supported and some local men who were not called up have volunteered and were accepted.

    Fascinating to read about life on the ground in Russia but this comment might be an exaggeration.


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  11. “I don’t think the EU countries really thought through the possible consequences of their sanctions.”
    True of the West in general, and true of all their policies for the last few decades. The West is busy self-destructing. Could you have thought it possible only a short time ago that prosperous countries would deliberately destroy their own energy sources or (like Holland) their food production, and thus destroy their economies, as Net Zero is designed to do. I suspect countries like China and Russia only have to be patient and they will triumph by default.


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  12. Fascinating to read about life on the ground in Russia but this comment might be an exaggeration.

    ftb, the volunteers, like the members of the reserve that are partially mobilized, will be people with previous military experience. And if they are volunteering, they will be on contracts. So it isn’t only patriotism that would be motivating them.


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  13. feelthebern says:
    October 25, 2022 at 4:51 am
    The recent mobilisation of military reserves is fully supported and some local men who were not called up have volunteered and were accepted.

    Fascinating to read about life on the ground in Russia but this comment might be an exaggeration.

    This information was provided to Mrs Speedbox by assorted friends in Kislovodsk and Pyatigorsk. Those individuals named specific men who were not called up in the draft but volunteered to re-enter the military. I am not aware of the terms of that re-engagement meaning they may be ‘contractors’ as distinct from normal re-enlistment. In any event, they are all ex-military and have departed their cities to take up arms.

    The Russian ‘network’ is alive with commentary about many others who have also re-entered the military.


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  14. At least speedbox has 1st hand information . Bravo . Anything else is potentially propaganda and the media is awash with it . What’s really going on will only become clear in hindsight . I suspect the assassinations being done ( and they appear to be mostly Russians ) and also the acts of sabotage are an indication of desperation . All the Russians have to do is wait for the “west” to implode and that’s happening. Roger W is right. Buryat with a population of just over half a million is relatively unimportant in the scheme of things .


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  15. Moscow and St Petersburg are vibrant world cities.

    I received an email from a former colleague last week, he now lives in St Pete’s. He bears out everything you have commented on Speedbox.

    And yes, he now saves more of his salary in AUD terms because the COL in Russia is a good deal cheaper than here. One thing is clear; the vast majority of Russian’s at present are not against Putin while they are nervous about the war. Sentiment is hardening in a nationalist bent towards “get it done!”.

    Russians generally love their Motherland and have a great respect for their culture.


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  16. Dover

    If 20% of the economy is devoted to the war effort and they’re calling young men to go fight, goods wouldn’t be in ample supply nor cheap.

    Perhaps the person filming in the supermarket was in the potato section. 🙂


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  17. If 20% of the economy is devoted to the war effort and they’re calling young men to go fight, goods wouldn’t be in ample supply nor cheap.

    Perhaps the person filming in the supermarket was in the potato section.

    And yet we’re seeing well-stocked shelves in supermarkets, green grocers, and the like in different parts of the country. It just may be, like it is in other areas, that the Western MSM is promoting a narrative at odds with the truth.


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