Reuters reported that Patriarch Kirill, the head of Russia’s influential Orthodox Church, drove on Friday a holy icon procession around the streets of Moscow. It was an attempt at halting the spread of the coronavirus. Unknown to but the very few, Kirill should take credit for Putin’s rise to power as he is the one that encouraged him early on, called him “the blessed one” and savior of Russia. However, the kingmaker Moscow tour is an indicator Russia is in deep shit, or rather Putin is.
“I’M KILLING THE CORONAVIRUS”
The combined effects of an oil price crash and the coronavirus impact, which is just about to hit Russia even harder than possibly the United States, are a jab and a cross knockout punches. Lost in this coup de grace is the All-Russian Vote referendum Putin is attempting to ram down the throats of ordinary Russians to extend his power grab of the Kremlin until 2036. Putin needs oil prices to stabilize and the coronavirus to disappear to extend and implement his power grab.
Russians may not vote for such a referendum if the outlook of their two-incomes economy falters and crashes. Nor will they risk taking to the streets to vote come April 22. So, the kingmaker makes his move by providing a false sense of security to Russian referendum voters. With his icon tour, Kirill tells the people “I’m killing the coronavirus”. Do your duty, risk your lives for “our blessed one” to vote for his rule come the 22nd.
At least this is the subliminal message the Patriarch is trying to convey.
KINGMAKER MOSCOW TOUR MEANS PUTIN IS CONCERNED
Knoema predicted the price of $61.25 a barrel for 2020. Pre-coronavirus estimates. With prices hovering around $28, Russia, which produces some 10 Mb/d, may see a net income loss up to the tune of $33 a barrel. This computes, if prices remain at this level throughout 2020, into a net annual loss of approximately $120 Billion. Even if prices hover around $30 a barrel for another three months, that’s a net loss of some $60 Billion.
Furthermore, its sovereign fund has lost steam because the Russian MOEX index dropped by one third since the coronavirus outbreak.
Trying to fight the coronavirus while suffering such high income loss is the main reason for Kirill’s Moscow tour. Russia sees the writing on the wall and is taking steps to mitigate.
In our opinion, Russia is in deep shit because of the two knockout punches between an oil price crash and the coronavirus pandemic. It just cannot handle the two disasters simultaneously.
This may also explain, partially, the Damascus trip by the Russian defense minister. The message might have been:
“Hey Baschar, don’t go ape crazy on us the next few months in Idlib. We have problems of our own to solve. Deep shitty problems.”
PUBLIC TRUST IS TANKING
The optics look bad but so are the results assured if the coronavirus continues to wreck havoc on the world.
American public trust is tanking. Americans may refuse to behave normally ever again even if the coronavirus seems under control. And without America’s deep pockets to stimulate the global economies, you can bet it will have an impact on Moscow’s economical future.
Russian adventurism in Syria to save a psychotic Assad may still come back to haunt the country. Yes, Putin may have tested Russian weapons on innocent Syrian civilians thus creating an international market for them, but he also wasted resources and materials that may seems unconscionable today given the circumstances.
Will the Syrian waste ever be paraded in the memories of ordinary Russians? Probably not. But smarter Russians may realize that Syria took a chunk out of Russia’s ability to enter the international scene in glorious fashion only to exit it, because of a virus, with its tail between its legs.
Only time will tell how much trouble Russia may find itself.