"how could Putin use all of that gold he has been buying against us?"
To my understanding, in no way whatsoever.
As a non-economist, it seems to me that the idea of "financial weapons" (for use by one state against another) is the stuff of scare stories -- as I read history, they have not proved very useful in practice.
Russia recently increased its gold holdings by about 1.5 billion USD. That's almost one ten-thousandth of the US GDP -- our economy produces more wealth than that, in an average hour.
A _sensible_ reason to buy gold is to protect against your paper money (or other financial instruments) turning into toilet paper ... well, the ruble is well on its way, so accumulating gold as a "hedge" is a perfectly normal financial move, given Russia's situation. Russia's store of foreign currency and gold gives them the option, in an emergency, of paying critical bills in a coin other countries will accept.
Putin's gold accumulation is about defense, not attack. If Russia were on solid financial ground, it would have no need for gold.
They are amphibious assault craft and not likely a strategy that Ukraine would have use for in defense, nor could they themselves be defended against an attack by a superior force. I'd give them about 5 minutes in Ukraine's fleet. The political gain would be of more use to destroy them.
After crossing 48 / USD about two weeks ago, the ruble made some recovery (Kremlin intervention) and has fluctuated a fair amount ... but still remains around 47 / USD.
But meanwhile, crude oil prices (which had leveled off for a little while) resumed their price fall. My latest figure for Russia's Urals benchmark crude is just over USD 76 / bbl.
Russia's federal budget assumes nearly USD 100, and USD 80 had been described as a sort of pain threshold. This continued fall will likely set off some waves of consequences in Russia's overall economy, unless prices start to climb again within a few weeks.
Well, Urals crude is still under USD 78 / bbl, and probably a lot lower than that today -- I haven't found a site with real-time pricing. OPEC today failed to agree on production limits, which is bad news for the price of crude.
Brent crude just sold for USD 71.25; given the usual difference between Brent and Urals, Urals crude may be selling today around USD 70 / bbl.
After hovering in the the range of 46-57 / USD, the ruble slid again today on the OPEC news.
New all-time record: 48.75 RUB / USD (presently 48.72)
Durak...nice to give all those figures but even at this current climate continuing it would take a couple years for Russian economy to collapse..... may I remind you that Ukraine at its current pace will collapse in less than one year unless major injections of finances...how long can one survive on credit cards or IOU's?
Do you think that Putin will stop his vicious hammer blows against Ukraine, simple because it is bankrupt? Will he suddenly acknowledge Ukraine's sovereignty, or stop his mouthpieces from calling Ukraine's elected government Nazis dozens of times in each day?
I recently read the memoir of a distinguished American aviator. As an escaped POW in the last days of Nazi Germany, he was a horrified eyewitness to Red Army soldiers (he labeled them "Russian") gang-raping a young, pregnant German civilian. They continued, even after she died during the trauma.
Putin is not only sufficiently depraved to commit necrophilia -- for all I know, it would thrill him.
On the other side, if Russia suffers bankruptcy, there is some hope that the war will end.
I think he's one of these that were bought up under communism and he's found transition difficult, he won't allow his own people to enjoy the freedoms that the west enjoys, he wants to keep them in his pocket, and when he sees a close neighbor digging their escape tunnel towards "westernism", that might cause revolt amongst his own people, well that's when his underpants threatened to turn a shade of brown.
But he never expected it to go this far, he armed the drunks with SAM's expecting them to pop off at the occasional Ukrainian helicopter and he didn't CONSIDER nor THINK for one minute that a bunch of drunks might actually bring down a commercial airliner with his weaponry that he provided to them.
Whatever happens at the end of this Putin is finished, if he backs down so far in he's finished so he, personally, has nothing to lose by keeping it going, the longer it continues the longer he stays in office.
He is taunting the EU and the US. He is sending fighters and bombers over NATO countries,,, UK, US. Sweden, Norway, the Balticís,,, and Finland,,, which I believe is not NATO. Bombers have been flying to our Gulf of Mexico, to the shores of Calf. Alaska, and I believe in Northern Canada. He sent part of his fleet down to Australia to bully and threaten the G-20 summit,,, R-subs are playing cat and mouse with Sweden, and probably a whole lot more than any of us know about.
Oh,,, moving nukes into Crimea, improving his nuclear arsenal,,,, claiming he could win a war with the US.
Is a conventional war even possible with Russia?? How many shots could be fired before Putin starts pressing buttons?? If we have a ďFull ReleaseĒ nuclear war,,,, no one wins! Doesnít he know that??
Yet the killer Dunt keeps taunting us??? That sounds insane to me!
Every time there is a diplomatic difference of opinion Russia sends it's aircraft out.
After the poisoning in London and the contamination of three airliners situ a number of years back it was the same, the USA and Russia play "air force' cat and mouse all the time.
At the time of 9/11, your secretary of defense, or whatever, "Rice" woman, with the US military airborne that day she thought it appropriate to let Moscow know that "we are airborne", Moscow's reply was "Yes, we are watching you and we have cancelled all training exercises for today" ... a training exercise being a game of cat and mouse.
No, I don't think Putin is insane. At times he is not very sensible, but I am confident that he is rational or "reasonable" (in the sense that "reasonable" is used in American jurisprudence, for example how "a reasonable person" would react to some situation).
There's an old Russian story that a rough rural type (a Cossack or peasant, I forget which) was asked, "if you were made tsar, what would you do?" To which he replied, "take five roubles and run as fast as I can!"
Putin is a more sophisticated version of this, with better education. He was made President about 15 years ago, at the fairly young age of 47. He was smart enough to see how he could gradually transform this office into tsardom (in my opinion, his autocratic rule is now comparable to that of 19th century tsars), and use it to take something like one trillion (1,000,000,000,000) rubles.
I suggest that Putin operates according to these precepts:
1. He accumulates as much wealth and power as he knows how to get.
2. He acts with fierce ruthlessness to protect and preserve his hold on power. This is instinctive for him in any case, but became intensified when he realized years ago that because his record of criminality is so appalling, loss of power would mean his imprisonment or death.
3. He has grown so wealthy, that money has become almost meaningless to him: now, he thinks purely in terms of power. Every action is calculated on the basis of how it might increase or decrease his power.
4. Russia, as a territory and an abstract concept, has some sentimental value for him.
5. His contempt for the Russian people is absolute: to him, they are so much toilet paper to be used, soiled, and flushed into oblivion, to the extent that such use protects his grip on power.
6. He regards himself as superior to all ethical considerations, as they are usually applied to ordinary people. He is the Strong Man: morality is for ordinary people (that is, toilet paper). The Will of the Strong Man is the Law, and it is Inherently Righteous.
I further suggest that if Putin does indeed govern himself by these precepts, then the overall pattern of his decisions and actions is quite rational.
Pathological narcissism (see Putin's famous press photos), and grotesque moral deformity, are hideous defects. But they don't add up to insanity.
Hey, more than 100 million Russians love the guy! He must be OK.
Durak,, I agree with most of what you wrote,,, but that still sounds like a madman to me!
Martin,,, Iím sure that the Blackhawk flights years ago really pissed off the USSR,,, and perhaps they think it is only fair to fly their bombers today.
Maybe we should shoot down one of their bombers over the Gulf of Mexico,,,, and blame the Ukrainians??
There was a story doing the rounds when I was in the RAF ...
The Russians sent a spy plane across taking photos of UK military installations and sent UK the pics.
The UK responded sending an Avro Vulcan across taking similar pics over USSR and sent Russia the pics.
The Russians then sent UK pics of their aircraft taking pics of our Vulcan ... that they had detected our Vulcan and photographed it.
The UK responded by sending Russia pics from a 2nd Vulcan that took pics of their aircraft taking pics of our 1st Vulcan.
On the subject of the SR71 Blackbird who remembers the peace protesters outside USAF Greenham Common in England when USA stationed some nuclear cruise missiles at Greenham Common.
Well said peace protesters broke in to the base one day throwing paint on a number of display aircraft including a SR71 ... SR71 crew were none too happy about this and upon subsequent departure from Greenham Common blew said peace camp away :)
"I was the pilot in this video, but did not fly the SR-71 out of RAF Greenham Common. I was the "mobile control" officer when the aircraft departed and the pilot was Maj Jim Jiggens, a USAF Thunderbird pilot and formally a US Army helicopter combat pilot in Vietnam.
On the evening of the air show featured in this video, women, who were protesting President Reagan's decision to station intermediate nuclear missiles in England, broke into the security cordon around the air show aircraft and threw paint on several, including this SR-71.
Owing to the unique metals associated with the SR-71, the removing of the paint required special maintenance procedures to assure that no "hot spot" would develop on subsequent flights. It was quite a hassle and we were not amused over this incident.
Jim and I planned a farewell departure for the protesters who were encamped in a squalor of tents just outside the main gate. Jim obtained clearance for a "closed pattern" and turned to a downwind leg, descended to about 100 feet above the ground, and flew directly over the protestors' encampment. It was early and probably most were asleep, but not for long.
Jim was flying about 250 knots and selected afterburner in both engines as he was approaching the tents. As the SR-71 accelerated to 350-400 knots, he pulled up and focused the plume (and noise) directly on the protesters. It was a magnificent sight.
"If I remember correctly 1983 was the year of the tribute to Sir Douglas Bader and Lady Bader paid the objects at the "Peace" Camp a visit asking them if they would not disrupt the show as her late husband had fought for people like them to be able to have their protests. However as seen by the paint attack they did not have the decency to keep their word. The SR-71 stayed a couple of days after the show departing on the tuesday or wednesday although I did have the pleasure of seeing it heading over my garden after take-off."