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barcelona-protests

If reports that 700,000 came out in Barcelona are accurate, then Spain in its current borders is likely done for.

This is about as high a percentage of the Barcelona metropolitan area’s 5.4 million as the 500,000 Ukrainians who came out at the height of Euromaidan in the 3.3 million Kiev conglomerate area – and the latter drew from a country of 45 million versus less than 8 million Catalans.

For comparison, the largest of the protests that “shook the Kremlin” during the 2011-12 election season garnered about 100,000 people in a city of well more than 10 million.

I am not writing Spain off entirely. But Madrid’s challenges going ahead are huge.

Around 51% of the all Catalan voters expressed their desire for independence in the recent referendum. After the police violence, and the hardline response of Rajoy and now the King – in itself yet more evidence that Madrid has settled for a police response – this will have surely jumped by another 10% to 20% points.

Good luck trying to arrest the Catalan government under these conditions once they declare independence in a few days. It’s not going to be pretty.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Catalonia, Spain 
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catalonia-referendum-2017-results

Final results:
YES: 90.1%
NO: 7.9%
Turnout: ~42% of those counted (2,262,424), ~56% if including the confiscated ballot boxes (~770,000) out of 5,343,358 registered voters.

Assuming that the vote in “repressed” polling stations was similar, you can turnout * YES = ~51% support for independence, which tallies exactly with the last poll on the basis of which turnout was expected at 62% * expected 83% for YES = ~51%.

The police violence must have merely lowered turnout by around 7% points while raising the YES share of the vote by an analogous amount. That is, it accomplished precisely nothing, while generating horrific headlines and almost certainly hardening Catalan attitudes towards Madrid (which will be expressed soon enough).

Though the competition is certainly stiff, could Rajoy be the single most feckless Western leader?

I will defend Rajoy’s widely-panned “tone-deaf” speech. While the heavy-handed response to the referendum was a very bad idea, his speech, with its clear and unequivocal expression of support for the Guardia Civil, was not.

50% of all Catalan voters were already going to vote Yes, and after today’s events, they must have gained another 10% or 20% points. The local police refuse to obey central commands. They are for all intents and purposes now “lost” to Spain, at least for the time being.

Very soon the time will come when the Catalonian parliament declares independence. At that point, if Spain wishes to remain whole, there will have to be mass arrests of their government and replacement with a caretaker administration. The security forces tasked with carrying this out must be absolutely loyal for the operation to be successful. The sense that the political elites have their backs is a prerequisite of police loyalty. If they feel that they are going to be stabbed in the back by weak politicians concerned at the first signs of pressure, then they are not going to be able to fulfill their orders with the requisite degree of decisiveness and ruthlessness. They are instead going to fold once their encounter serious resistance and Madrid will have no choice but to make its peace with an independent Catalonia.

This is what happened with Yanukovych in the Ukraine in 2013-14, who stabbed the security men charged with keeping his regime in power in the back by refusing to provide them support once things got too hot. This totally demoralized them and ensured the triumph of the Euromaidan.

In opinion polls, Spaniards consistently tie with Swedes for the most liberal positions in areas like LGBT and immigration in Europe. But today it’s as if they’ve all gone hardcore Falangist on Catalan separatism, at least judging from the Spanish responses to the Catalonia discussion on /r/europe. Not really much to say here, just an observation. I assume there remain “triggers” such as seeing the prospect of rebellion that awaken primal reflexes in even the most derooted peoples.

So far as Western countries go, I suppose Spain deserves this far less than most. It was the only major Western country not to recognize Kosovo, even though in most other respects it toed the American line on bombing Serbia, the embargo, no-fly zone, etc. Still, credit where it’s due.

Eurocrats and Globalism Inc. are predictably unanimous in opposing Catalan separatism. This is perfectly understandable. Spain is part of NATO. The loss of Spain’s biggest donor region will hit its revenues and perhaps reignite its simmering debt crisis.

Curiously, the Alt Right (Spencer wing) is also skeptical about Catalonia. As with their opposition to Brexit, they decry the indulgence of petty nationalisms as obstacles to global white unity; besides, as they point out, Catalonia is liberal-leftist even by Spanish standards, so why should nationalists support them anyway? So that they can invite in refugees even faster? This is, of course, in their eyes buttressed by Catalonia’s historical role as the heartland of the Republican government during the Spanish Civil War.

Leaving aside the merits of their ideological slant, this begs a couple of counter-arguments. First, does this mean that only “based” nations should have a right to national self-determination? Because there are very few such European countries left, anyway. Second, as Alt Left points out, getting rid of political dead weight (e.g. California in the US) would actually raise the ability of the rest of the country to push forwards the sort of political change that the Alt Right advocates.

At a formal level, it need hardly be said that Russia needs to maintain the principle of absolute state sovereignty with respect to Madrid. However, it is also evidently in its interests for its soft power interests to approach the Catalan referendum with “understanding.” After all, if the Catalonia referendum does carry a certain legitimacy, then how are the repeated referendums for greater autonomy and/or independence any less so? Who are Westerners who shut down a peaceful vote with rubber bullets to lecture Russia about democracy anyway?

Besides, the one certitude in our age of Russian Hackers and Fake News is that Russia is going to be held responsible anyway. Putin is no longer just the God of the Ukraine, responsible for all its mishaps and zradas; he is now Lord and Master of the American Empire and its satellites, puppetting everything and everyone from Drumpf and the Alt Right to BLM and Take the Knee and Catalan separatists. Since it’s doing time anyway, Russia might as well start doing the crime.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Color Revolution, Spain 
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Catalonia is richer and more intelligent than the Spanish average, but hardly any sort of huge outlier.

Could economic reasons really explain that much of their drive for independence?

spain-iq-2015-gdp

PISA_2015 GDPcc_2010
Andalusia 95.9 $22,487
Aragon 100.7 $32,152
Asturias 99.6 $28,271
Balearic Islands 97.3 $31,876
Basque Country 98.3 $40,457
Canary Islands 95.5 $25,512
Cantabria 99.6 $30,315
Castile and Leon 102.4 $29,682
Castile-La Mancha 99.1 $22,766
Catalonia 100.2 $34,952
Comunidad Valenciana 98.9 $26,441
Extremadura 96.1 $21,742
Galicia 100.8 $26,283
La Rioja 99.7 $32,326
Madrid 102.0 $38,712
Murcia 97.0 $24,101
Navarre 102.2 $38,736
Spain 98.6 $29,810

The difference really is quite modest relative to the massive north/south disparity you see in Italy.

italy-iq-gdp

Just for added effect, here is Spain and Italy compared side by side (GRP per capita on the left, PISA 2009 results on the right).

spain-italy-map-gdp-iq

I have heard from an Italian acquaintance that Northern seccessionist sentiment has died down in the past few years. Hardworking, clever northerners are now readier to tolerate lackadaisical southerners now that Merkel has inundated the place with far more foreign elements. But I suppose it didn’t work that way in Spain.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Secession, Spain 
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I just remembered I’d made some in 2012. It’s time to see how they went, plus make predictions for the coming year.

Of course I failed to predict the biggest thing of them all: The hacking that made me throw in the towel on Sublime Oblivion (remember that?), but with the silver lining that I could now split my blog between my interest in Russia and my interest in many other things. After all tying my criticism of the Western media on Russia with topics like climate change and futurism and HBD was never a very good fit. Overall I am very satisfied with the new arrangement.

Predictions For 2013

(1) Russia will see slight positive natural population growth (about 50,000) as well as significant overall population growth (about 400,000). Do bear in mind that this prediction was first made back in 2008 when a Kremlinologist who did the same would have been forced into a mental asylum.

(2) The life expectancy will reach 71.5 years, the total fertility rate will rise to 1.8. The birth rate will reach a local maximum at about 13.3-13.5 (it will then remain steady for a couple of years, and then begin to slowly decline) while the death rate will go down to about 13.0-13.2). Net immigration should remain at about 300,000.

(3) Putin will not be overthrown in a glorious democratic revolution. In fact, things will remain depressingly stable on the political front. As they should!

(4) Currently Russia is one of Europe’s most corrupt countries. While it’s certainly not at the level of Zimbabwe, as claimed in the Corruption Perceptions Index, it’s not like having the Philippines, Romania, or Greece for neighbors on an objective assessment is anything to write home about. I believe that Russia missed a great opportunity to undermine the rotten culture of official impunity that exists there by refraining from prosecuting former Moscow Mayor Luzhkov with his Montenegrin villa, billionaire wife, and his VP Mayor Resin who wore a $500,000 watch following his dismissal in 2010. Today a similar opportunity presents itself with blatant evidence of large-scale corruption on the part of former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and his female hangers-on (see the comments threads here, here at the Kremlin Stooge for details). There are conflicting signals as to whether charges will extend to the very top, i.e. Serdyukov himself. Having incorrectly anticipated a Luzhkov prosecution, I am now once bitten, twice shy. So I’ll take the lame way out and call it a 50/50.

(5) Needless to say, the economy remains as uncertain as ever, and contingent upon what happens in the EU and the world. In the PIGS the economic contraction is finally starting to slow down, but Greece is something of a disaster zone, and Spain is raiding its pension fund to keep afloat. If this becomes unsustainable this year then the EU member states will have to make some fundamental choices: Fiscal union? Or its division into a “Hanseatic” core and Mediterranean periphery? Which of these three things will happen I find impossible to even begin to foretell… As applied to Russia, under the first two scenarios, it will continue plodding along at a stolid but unremarkable pace of 3-4% or so GDP growth; if things come to a head (as they eventually must) and Germany decides to toss the Latins overboard, then the divorce I assume is going to be very, very messy, and we can expect Russia’s economy to fall into recession.

(6) No special insights on foreign policy. Ukraine may join the Customs Union; however, I suspect that’s more likely to happen in 2014 or 2015, as Yanukovych faces re-election and has to make a choice between continued prevarication between it and the EU, and encouraging his Russophone base. The creeping influence of the Eurasian Union will likely keep US-Russian relations cold; whatever the current disagreement that’s talked about (Magnitsky Act; Dima Yakovlev Law; Syria; Libya…) I lean to the “Stratfor”-like position that at heart the US just does not want what it sees as a “re-Sovietization” of the region – which the Eurasian Union is, in geopolitical terms, if under conditions much softer than was previously the case – and will thus be driven, almost by force of instinct, to oppose this trend.

How did I do for 2012?

Here is the link again. In short, this wasn’t the best year for my predictions.

1. “So that’s my prediction for March: Putin wins in the first round with 60%, followed by perennially second-place Zyuganov at 15%-20%, Zhirinovsky with 10%, and Sergey Mironov, Mikhail Prokhorov and Grigory Yavlinsky with a combined 10% or so.I later ended up refining this, and running a contest. My predictions for the five candidates were off by an aggregate error of 14%. The heroic winner was Andras Toth-Czifra (who has yet to get his T-Shirt – my profound apologies dude, it will be done…) Half a point.

2. “I will also go ahead and say that I do not expect the Meetings For Fair Elections to make headway.” Correct, although this was self-evident to anyone not afflicted with Putin Derangement Syndrome (which admittedly doesn’t include 90% of Western Russia journalists). Full point.

3. Here I made general points that I still think fully apply. That said, my own specific prediction turned out to be false. “But specifically for 2012, I expect Greece to drop out of the Eurozone (either voluntarily, or kicked out if it starts printing Euros independently, as the former Soviet republics did with rubles as Moscow’s central control dissipated).” Wrong! I am perhaps foolhardy to do so, but I repeat this prediction for this year. I really don’t know why the Greeks masochistically agree to keep on paying tribute to French and German banks when they know full well they have no hope of ever significantly bringing down their debt-to-GDP ratio without major concessions on the parts of their creditors. Zero points.

4. Last year I made no major predictions about the Russian economy; basically, unexciting but stable if things stay normal – a downswing if the EU goes down, albeit not on as big a scale as in 2008-2009. I was basically correct. One point.

5. “I expect 2012 will be the year in which Ukraine joins the Eurasian common economic space.” Nope. To activate their Russophone base, they decided to go with the language law. Zero points.

6. “Russia’s demography. I expect births to remain steady or fall slightly… Deaths will continue to fall quite rapidly, as excise taxes on vodka – the main contributor to Russia’s high mortality rates – are slated to rise sharply after the Presidential elections.” Too pessimistic on births, albeit understandably so because Russia’s cohort of women in their child-bearing age has now begun to decline rapidly (the echo effect). Although ironically enough however I am one of the most optimistic serious Russia demographers. In reality, as of the first 10 months of 2012, births have soared by a further 6.5% (which translates to a c.8% increase in the TFR, bringing it up from 1.61 in 2011 to about 1.74 this year – that’s about the level of Canada and the Netherlands – while deaths have fallen by 1.5%, implying a rise in life expectancy from 70.3 years in 2011 to about 71 years in 2012 (which is a record). Most remarkably the rate of natural population growth is now basically break-even, with birth rates and death rates both at about 13.3/1000; the so-called “Russian cross” has become a rhombus. Still, considering that my predictions were basically more optimistic than anyone else’s (even Mark Adomanis’), I still feel justified in calling this n my favor. One point.

So, that’s 3.5/6 for the Russia predictions. I will be very brief on the non-Russia related ones, as this is a Russia blog.

7. Wrong, Romney did not win LOL. Although later I did improve greatly, coming 12th out of 66 in a competition to predict the results of the US popular vote. I now owe a few bottles of whiskey to various people.

8. US did not attack Iran, but I gave it a 50% chance anyway. So, half point?

9. “But I will more or less confidently predict that global oil production in 2012 will be a definite decrease on this year.” Too early to tell.

10. “China will not see a hard landing.” Correct.

11. “Record low sea ice extent and volume. And perhaps 100 vessels will sail the Northern Sea Route this year.More like 46 vessels, and completely correct on extreme new sea ice lows.

12. “Tunisia is the only country of the “Arab Spring” that I expect to form a more or less moderate and secular government.” I think that’s basically correct.

13. Protests will not lead to any major changes outside the Arab world – yes.

14. “The world will, of course, end on December 21, 2012.” Correct, we’re now living in a simulation, the real world having ended as I predicted.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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The response to the last global crisis only consisted of kicking the can further down the road, and the chickens are showing signs of coming home to roost. Of particular note: (1) the recent upwards spike on bond yields for Italy and Spain*; (2) The political paralysis in the US that may (conceivably, if unlikely) shut down government on August 2nd and send it into default; (3) oil prices are again inching up to the levels that coincided – and some argue significantly contributed to – the last recession; due to the realities of peak oil and rising Chinese demand, there is little to be done about this.

Question for consideration: How will Russia be affected by a possible Greece-style scenario unfolding in Italy, Spain, or even the US? (More generally, how do you think the next global financial and economic crisis is going to play out? What effects will it have on the Eurozone, US dollar’s status as reserve currency, etc?).

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions (if I did I’d be out there getting rich not writing this post). However, I can offer a provisional framework that may help you think about this issue.

Russia Positives

  • Very low sovereign debt; fiscal books are more or less balanced.
  • High oil prices… for now.
  • A moderately paced recovery has almost returned output levels to peak-2008.
  • Households far less reliant on borrowing to finance consumption than in typical developed nations.

Russia Negatives

  • Dependence of the budget on oil prices.
  • In 2008, one of the main causes of the sudden collapse in industrial output was the draining of liquidity. Russian industrial groups had relied on Western financial inter-mediation for accessing capital. From August, this suddenly dried up as the crisis exploded and global investors scurried to the “safe haven” of US Treasury bonds. So several related questions for today:
  1. To what extent has the Russian private and quasi-state sector reduced this dependence on foreign credit since 2008? (My impression: by a bit, but not fundamentally so).
  2. In the case of a global credit crunch, will Russia be spared? On the one hand, its macroeconomic fundamentals are very good (RELATIVELY speaking); on the other hand, this was the same case in 2008 and widespread sentiments that Russia was a “haven of stability” patently didn’t work out.
  3. To what extent will the fact that the next crisis will likely be one of sovereign collapses benefit Russia relative to other countries? After all in 2008 investors parked their savings in the bonds of countries perceived to be stable; above all, US bonds. This was because this was a primarily financial / banking crisis and sovereigns remained solvent. This calculus may be fundamentally different in the next crisis. Where can the safe haven investor invest? Euro bonds are out of the question. No bond vigilantes have yet appeared for US Treasuries, but surely with the chronic inability to cut the deficit this will eventually change? The yuan isn’t convertible… for now.
  4. So only commodities are left as a major investment vehicle (which benefits Russia), HOWEVER… big sovereign defaults will force the world economy back into recession, lower oil demand, and relieve pressure on commodities leading to a collapse of their prices – which is bad for Russia. Alternatively, prices may remain high if investors remain big on commodities and Asian demand quickly makes up for any shortfall in developed country demand for commodities – which is good for Russia. Which of these two forces will win out?
  • Dependence on credit for consumption. Credit based purchases were beginning to play a huge role in Russian consumption in 2007-2008; this was cut off and constitutes another main cause of the depth of its 2009 recession. This dependence on credit for consumption is already creeping back in 2011, though it has yet to reach the levels of early 2008.
  • Stampede effect. Despite aforementioned good fundamentals, many institutional investors have rules to abandon EM’s if a global financial crisis strikes (regardless of the specifics of the country in question). To avoid losses, other investors are forced to flee too.

Go, discuss.

* At the beginning of this year I speculated which of the “dominoes” among the PIGS, the US, and Japan would fall first when the global economic crisis resumed. Perhaps the PIGS will prove to be the weakest link after all.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.