1. On the destructive influence of Western Ukraine on the “Russian world”
“This is a very delicate question - the unity of the Russian world. Divide and conquer – this slogan has been in force since ancient times and is still actively used in real politics. Therefore, our potential adversary, our opponents have always dreamed about this and have always been engaged in this, they tried to divide us and then lead separate parts. <…>
I no longer remember, then look through the pages of history, one of the deputies of the still tsarist State Duma said: if you want to lose Ukraine, annex Galicia to it. In the end, it happened, he turned out to be a visionary. Why? Because people from this part behave very aggressively and in fact suppress the silent majority in the rest of this territory.
The phrase is somewhat strange: Nicholas II could not annex anything to Ukraine, since at that time it not only did not have statehood, but was not an administrative unit either, its territory was divided between several provinces of the Russian Empire, and the western part belonged to Austria Hungary.
Apparently, Putin had in mind a phrase from the so-called note of Pyotr Durnovo, written in 1914 and addressed to Nicholas II, whom the pro-German Durnovo tried to dissuade from joining the Entente. By the way, he was not a deputy of the Duma, but a member of the State Council, moreover, he was appointed, not elected, that is, in essence, an official. Durnovo's thought is formulated as follows:
“Why revive the centrifugal aspirations, which have not died out to this day in the Privislinsky region, by attracting the restless Poznań and East Prussian Poles to the Russian state, whose national demands are not able to drown out and more firm than the Russian, German authorities?
The same is true for Galicia. It is clearly unprofitable for us, in the name of the idea of national sentimentalism, to annex to our fatherland a region that has lost all living connection with it. After all, for an insignificant handful of Russian Galicians in spirit, how many Poles, Jews, Ukrainianized Uniates will we get? The so-called Ukrainian or Mazepa movement is not terrible for us now, but it should not be allowed to grow, increasing the number of restless Ukrainian elements, since in this movement there is an undoubted germ of an extremely dangerous Little Russian separatism, under favorable conditions, which can reach completely unexpected dimensions.
There are different opinions about whether Durnovo's note is genuine, where the consequences of the world war that are detrimental to the Russian Empire are predicted with amazing accuracy. It was first published in German in the weekly Reichswart; Russian translation of this text appeared later. The biographer of Nicholas II Peter Multatuli notes that the text does not look like a note addressed to the emperor, since it never contains an appeal to the monarch by his full title, which was completely impossible at the court of Nicholas. Countess Maria Bobrinskaya, born Princess Trubetskaya, in a letter to Alexander Solzhenitsyn claimed that she had read the note before the revolution and vouched for its authenticity, but it is unlikely that she could remember the details of the text in the 1970s.
Contrary to Putin's assertion, there are not so many people from the western regions among the leadership of the modern Ukrainian state. President Volodymyr Zelensky was born in Krivoy Rog, Dnepropetrovsk region, and it is completely absurd to accuse him, an ethnic Jew whose native language is Russian, of Ukrainian nationalism. Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal is from Lviv, Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk is from Lviv Oblast, but other Deputy Prime Ministers are from other parts of Ukraine: First Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Sviridenko from Chernihiv, Olga Stefanyshina from Odesa, Mikhail Fedorov from Zaporozhye Oblast. Of the 15 ministers, only two - Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov and Energy Minister Herman Galushchenko - are related to Galicia and two more come from Podolia, from the Khmelnytsky region. It is impossible to understand where Putin saw signs of suppression of the "silent majority" of Ukrainians by the Galicians.
2. On the comparative merits of the Patriot and S-300 anti-aircraft systems
“As far as Patriot is concerned, it's quite an old system. It does not work like, say, our S-300. Nevertheless, those who oppose us proceed from the fact that this is supposedly a defensive weapon. OK. We'll just keep it in mind and there will always be an antidote. So those who do this are doing it in vain: it’s just prolonging the conflict, that’s all.”
The Patriot anti-aircraft missile system was first adopted by the United States in 1982. The Soviet S-300 air defense system appeared even a little earlier: it was put into service in 1979. But more importantly, the Patriot has undergone major upgrades over the decades; new modifications are designed to fight ballistic missiles, which is especially important for Ukraine when the enemy is conducting massive rocket attacks on its infrastructure facilities.
In the 2000s, the Patriot developed the ERINT missile, designed specifically to combat ballistic missiles; due to its small size, the launcher, designed for 4 standard MIM-104 missiles, fits 16 ERINTs. Modern modifications of the Patriot use a satellite tracking system for missile launches. In addition, Patriot can exchange information with other NATO air defense systems, in particular, with the American NASAMS and the German IRIS-T, which Ukraine already has , so that missiles spotted by the locator of one complex can be shot down by another.
3. On the level of inflation in Russia and foreign countries
“Inflation, as I said, we will have this year - also one of the most important indicators - a little more than 12%. This, I think, is much better than in many other countries, including the G20 countries. It is not good that there is inflation, but it is good that it is less than in other countries.”
Strictly speaking, here Putin does not deceive, but his phrase requires some clarification. Of course, inflation in Russia is much lower than in countries such as Zimbabwe (in November, according to Trading Economics , 255%), Venezuela (156%), Lebanon (142%). And among the G20 countries there are two where inflation is higher than in Russia: Argentina (92.4%) and Turkey (84.39%). Elsewhere in the G20, inflation is lower; for comparison, in the UK 10.7%, in Germany 10%, in the USA 7.1%, in France 6.2%, in Japan 3.8%, in Switzerland 3%, and in China only 1.6%. The euro area countries have an average inflation of 10.2%.
Putin's assertion that "it's not good that there is inflation" is, to say the least, debatable. So, in 2021, TASS published an article by Arina Raksina “High inflation: why prices are rising and what this growth could be like in 2022”, the author of which, referring to experts, explains that low inflation is comfortable for the economy - within 6%. The Central Bank of Russia considers the optimal level of 4%. The absence of inflation is dangerous because it does not encourage economic activity; In the 1990s and 2000s, Japan experienced the so-called “lost 20 years”, when economic growth practically stopped under conditions of stable deflation.
But the fact that inflation in Russia is lower than in Zimbabwe and Venezuela is certainly good for her; You can't argue with Putin here.
4. On the “price ceiling” and administrative regulation of the market
“Yes, of course, the goal is clear to our geopolitical opponents and opponents - to limit the revenues of the Russian budget, but we do not lose anything from this ceiling. There are no losses for the Russian fuel and energy complex and for the budget economy - there are no losses, because we sell at these prices. But this is not the point at all, but the point is that they are trying to screw new instruments, absolutely not inherent in a market economy, into the world energy sector, into the world economy. <…>
Friedman, a well-known economist, Nobel Prize winner, said a wonderful thing: if you want to have a shortage of tomatoes, impose a price limit on tomatoes, tomorrow you will have a shortage of tomatoes. They do the same here with gas and oil - the same thing, one to one. For some reason they don't listen.
Milton Friedman's phrase actually goes like this:
“We economists don't know much, but we know how to create a deficit. If you want to create a shortage, for example, of tomatoes, all you have to do is pass a law that makes it impossible for retailers to sell tomatoes for more than two cents a pound. Instantly you will be short of tomatoes.”
The absurd price of 2 cents a pound is cited here as an example of an ill-conceived cap that makes trading unprofitable. This has nothing to do with the situation with European energy: the ceiling is set at the level of the price at which profit is currently being traded and only prevents the seller from raising prices in the future and extracting excess profit. In addition, European restrictions do not apply to all traders on the market, but only to one - Russia; the purpose of the sanctions is to prevent the Russian authorities from financing an aggressive war with the windfall profits from oil and gas.
The price ceiling for Russian oil was introduced by the EU and the G7 in early December. And the effect of "Friedman's tomatoes" in the world is clearly not observed: the prices of sellers not affected by the restriction, not only did not increase, but even went down.
With gas, the situation is somewhat different: even before the introduction of the price ceiling, Russia itself artificially created its shortage in Europe, stopping supplies through all pipelines, except for the one going through Ukraine and one of the branches of the Turkish Stream. Nord Stream was stopped in August, Yamal-Europe through Belarus and Poland even earlier. But by the end of October, Europe was able to solve this problem; its gas storage facilities were nearly 100% full, and its LNG terminals were operating at full capacity. As a result, prices have fallen and continue to decline.
At the end of October, gas prices under short-term contracts in Europe at some point even turned out to be negative.
Experts interviewed by Deutsche Welle believe that the gas price ceiling is unlikely to have any significant impact on Russia and the market as a whole. American expert Rachel Zemba noted that Russia was much more influenced by its own decision to stop exporting through gas pipelines: as a result, the share of Russian gas in European markets fell from 40-55% to about 10%.