Why Putin is powerless in Ukraine
SPIEGEL: Yanukovych’s Fall: The Power of Ukraine’s Billionaires:
More than anything, though, the opposition had to reach an understanding with the two men who controlled roughly half of Yanukovych’s party: Rinat Akhmetov and Dmitry Firtash, the two most influential oligarchs in the country. […]
Akhmetov is the more important of the two. The 47-year-old is worth $15 billion and is head of the holdings company System Capital Management, which controls more than 100 companies with some 300,000 employees. They include metallurgical and pipe factories, banks, real estate firms, mobile phone enterprises and a large media company. He is the de-facto ruler of Donbass, the home of Ukrainian heavy industry, and owns the football team Shakhtar Donetsk. He is also among the leaders of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. […]
The second oligarch, Dmitry Firtash, 47, […] bought a chemical factory in Estonia and later purchased an Austrian firm which specialized in natural gas transportation. In 2004, he joined the Russian gas company Gazprom in opening the company RosUkrEnergo, which specialized in transporting natural gas to Western Europe.
It was this company which later put him at odds with the Orange Revolution: A dubious 2009 deal between Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and her Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin ruined Firtash’s business. He and Tymoshenko became bitter enemies. […]
There are, of course, differences between Akhmetov and Firtash. For one, Firtash is worth less than a billion dollars, in contrast to the monumentally rich Akhmetov. Furthermore, he works closely with partners in Russia whereas Akhmetov’s business empire is more focused on Europe. But the two have divided the political playing field between them and they control their country’s political scene as though it were a business joint venture. Key positions, whether in ministries or in parliament, are all occupied by their people. Yanukovych’s economics minister, for example, came from Akhmetov’s team while the deputy prime minister, in charge of natural gas issues, answered to Firtash. […]
In the last parliamentary elections, Akhmatov filled roughly 60 spots on the Party of Regions list with his people while Firtash chose 30. That is how politics in Ukraine is done: Whereas Putin took power away from the oligarchs in Russia, they are still at the controls in Ukraine.
The pair came to the conclusion well before the current crisis that Yanukovych would not be around for much longer. They began carefully looking around for alternatives. Akhmetov, for example, had always gotten along well with Tymoshenko, in contrast with Firtash, and began supporting Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who took over the leadership of her Fatherland alliance when she was incarcerated. Firtash, for his part, backed Vitali Klitschko’s party UDAR.
“In reality, Firtash early on placed people in Klitschko’s UDAR Party, a former head of secret service, for example,” says Vadim Karasev. […] “It may sound hard to believe,” Karasev says, “but Firtash was looking for an alternative for the eventuality that Tymoshenko was released and claimed the right to the presidency. It would have been advantageous were Klitschko already there, as a puppet of Firtash.”
When […] both oligarchs saw how obstinately Yanukovych reacted, they began to distance themselves. It was clear to both of them that if worse comes to worst, and the West imposed sanctions on Ukraine, their businesses would be the first to be affected. […]
On Wednesday both Akhmetov’s and Firtash’s TV stations changed their coverage of Independence Square: Suddenly the two channels, Ukraina and Inter, were reporting objectively on the opposition. The message of the oligarchs was clear: We’re letting Yanukovych fall.
And in parliament […] suddenly they were looking for a compromise after all. […] On Friday evening, parliament got back its full former powers, dismissed the hated interior minister and ultimately Yanukovych himself and smoothed the way for the release of Yulia Tymoshenko.
Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center: Why Russia Won’t Interfere:
The most popular myth about Moscow’s role in the Ukrainian crisis is that Mr. Yanukovych has been but a puppet of President Vladimir V. Putin. In reality, Mr. Putin has been very frustrated with his Ukrainian counterpart. To Mr. Putin, Mr. Yanukovych is unreliable, forever vacillating between the European Union and Russia; and now, a totally spent force, he has fled from Kiev to Kharkiv, a Russian-speaking city in eastern Ukraine. Moscow knows that the Ukrainian oligarchs, most of whom used to support Mr. Yanukovych, are largely anti-Russian. Though they in effect rule Ukraine, they fear being taken over by the richer business giants next door. Even those who made their money in Russia, like the protest-funder Petro Poroshenko, prefer to keep it in the West.
During the months of standoffs in Kiev, Russia’s actual role was much more modest than advertised by the international media or the rumor mill in Kiev. The Russian ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov, was conspicuously absent from public view. The Kremlin ordered all Duma members to stay out of Ukraine. Dmitry Rogozin, a deputy prime minister and a former Russian ambassador to NATO with a knack for making in-your-face comments about the West, has largely remained silent on Ukraine. The only Russian official to display any continuous interest in Ukraine was Sergey Glazyev, Putin’s adviser for Eurasian integration, who spoke at conferences and wrote articles about the high costs of Ukraine’s turn to the European Union.
Mr. Putin did receive Yanukovych several times, in Sochi and Moscow. And in December Russia did offer to buy $15 billion in Ukrainian-government bonds — dwarfing any conditional aid the European Union could cough up via the International Monetary Fund — and lower by one-third the price of its gas shipments to Ukraine. This financial support was extended without any strings attached, with the dual purpose of helping Ukraine avoid a likely default and building goodwill for closer economic relations in the future.
Moscow’s gesture of support was built on the belief, which Mr. Putin himself has expressed, that Ukrainians and Russians are one people. This obviously is not true, if only because Ukrainians themselves are not — at least not yet — one people. Just compare Lviv and Sebastopol: Western Ukraine, which was annexed by the Soviet Union only under Stalin, is vehemently anti-Russian; the east and the south are Russophone, with the Crimea mostly Russian ethnically. To the vast majority of the elite in Ukraine, the country’s independence from the Soviet Union meant, above all, independence from Russia. There are virtually no Ukrainian politicians who can be called pro-Russian: This simply goes against the grain of Ukraine’s national idea.
Despite what some Ukrainians suspect, Moscow is unlikely to try bringing about the breakup of Ukraine in order to annex its southern and eastern parts. That would mean civil war next door, and Russia abhors the idea. Moscow’s best option at this point is to stand back and wait, while quietly favoring decentralization in Ukraine. Although federalization is seen in Kiev and western Ukraine as a step toward ultimate partition, it could in fact help hold Ukraine together. With more financial and cultural autonomy, the country’s diverse regions could more easily live and let live, and keep one another in check. Promoting decentralization in Ukraine would be a realistic long-term strategy for Russia, something Moscow has lacked so far.
Bitcoin Lacks the Properties of a Real Currency
Categories: Geplapper, Idiocy
Tags: bitcoin, co2
David Yermack, professor at the New York University Stern School of Business and director of the NYU Pollack Center for Law and Busines, in MIT Technology Review:
… economists remain skeptical of Bitcoin’s staying power because it lacks many attributes of a useful currency. Money is supposed to serve three purposes: it functions as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, and a store of value. Bitcoin arguably satisfies the first criterion, because a growing number of merchants accept it as payment. But it performs poorly as a unit of account and a store of value. Bitcoin’s extreme fluctuations undermine any useful function for it in these roles. During 2013 its volatility was three to four times higher than that of a typical stock, and its exchange rate with the dollar was about 10 times more volatile than those of the euro, yen, and other major currencies. Bitcoin’s dollar price exhibits no correlation with the dollar’s exchange rates against other currencies. Nor does it correlate with the value of gold. With a currency whose value is so untethered, it is nearly impossible to hedge against risk.
Bitcoin also lacks additional characteristics usually associated with currencies. It cannot be deposited in a bank; instead it must be held in “digital wallets” that have proved vulnerable to thieves and hackers. There is nothing comparable to the deposit insurance relied on by banking consumers. …
Even if volatility subsides and the currency finds a place in the world payments system, it has another fatal economic flaw. Only 21 million units can ever be issued, and a fixed money supply is incompatible with a growing economy. In a bitcoin-dominated economy, workers would have to accept pay cuts every year, and prices for goods would gradually fall. Such conditions might lead to public unrest reminiscent of the late 19th century’s free-silver and populist movements—an ironic consequence of a currency known for its futuristic cachet.
Well, deflation would only be nominally, but as there is no need for a physical cent coin, prices can be e.g. 0.0000000000123 BC. Everything else is true — this “currency” is not connected to anything real on this planet.
And, before even speaking of how to trade or use the 21M BC, let’s not forget the idiocy and the lack of ethics of the so-called “mining” that “produces” bitcoins. It doesn’t lead to any economic output — first and foremost it consumes energy, and in a totally wasteful way. “Mining” for bitcoins is as “anti-green” as it can be.
The same “anti-system” idiots who love the Bitcoin are also trying to stop the global warming. Now, please, tell me how not to call them shitheads?
Even the economists forget to analyze the “mining” of bitcoins. Why is that so?