Friday, December 19, 2014

International Developments

Two things really caught my attention over the last few days. The economic situation in Russia and the Obama administration shift towards Cuba.

The Russian situation is moving very quickly. The Ruble has been in a long slow slide, but now has gone over a cliff. Attempts to shore it up by raising interest rates have only panicked Russians. People are in a hurry to turn their rapidly depreciating currency into real hard goods. Some retailers have suspended sales because they don't want to take Rubles while they are in free fall. The situation is so bad that Russians are trying to convert their currency into American Dollars.

Instability in Russia is very dangerous, especially with Putin at the helm. He has a record of turning to military action when faced with domestic trouble. In the past, demonstrations of Russian military power greatly increased his popularity.

Then again, Russia might be even more dangerous without Putin. Imagine if Putin died by accidentally stabbing himself in the back with a ski pole or shooting himself eight times in the head. That would cause a huge power struggle on top of the economic chaos. Putin has crushed all effective political resistance. There are no other politicians of sufficient stature to smoothly take over the government. Who knows how it would all shake out?

The Cuban situation is of particular interest to me. Take a marine band VHF radio down to the Florida Keys and listen to the Coast Guard broadcasts. Few days go by when mariners are not advised to keep an eye out for things like people on an over crowded raft. There is still a steady stream of people leaving Cuba by anything that floats. Last winter while we were down there three Cubans attempted the crossing on kite boards. One made it. The others had to be rescued at sea so were sent back to Cuba.

While down to the Keys I talk to a lot of people at marinas. Canadians can legally visit Cuba and bring back tales of how beautiful the beaches are. They say it's like the way Florida was 50 years ago. A number of Americans also make the short crossing to Cuba. Cuba doesn't stamp their passports so they don't leave a record of the visit.

One guy told me he'd be damned if he was going to let the government tell him where he can or cannot go. The US Coast Guard caught him coming back from Cuba once. In the end he paid a $3500 fine. It didn't bother him at all. I met the guy at the little marina on Bahia Honda Key. I suspect he was waiting for a good weather window to go back to Cuba. When the weather cleared he was last seen heading south.

Keep an eye on Russia. Russians have a long history of tolerating immense hardships. However, Russia now has a generation of people who are immersed in consumer culture. Their patience might be much shorter than it used to be. Things are changing daily and remember that Russia has nukes, and not just one or two of them like North Korea.

As for Cuba, well, I won't mind taking a boat there myself someday. It's kinda crazy to ignore the fact that there's this honking big island just off US shores. Now I understand the politics and have talked with Cuban exiles. However, I'm one of those who think more normal relations between countries are a good thing.



  1. Russians are just crazy ~ must be from all that cold and vodka. They will put up with a lot for a long time, then SNAP! Don't want to be on the receiving end of that. Hubby was in the Cold War during the Cuban Missle Crisis, when SAC was on alert 24/7. But what other country do we starve out their citizens just because we don't like the leader's politics? Mexico? Iraq maybe? Nope, none that I can think of..

    1. I certainly don't want a return to the cold war days. We may have more in common with the average Russian than either of us have with our leaders.

  2. I had a friend, while serving in the military at that time, was given a rifle and told to guard the coast of Florida, along with a lot of other soldiers.

  3. sactions never work at improving anything

    except in the leader's fantasy world


    1. Isn't it weird that the US admits that the Cuban embargo wasn't a good idea, yet we have embargos on Russia, Syria, Iran, N. Korea, and who knows where else?