It would seem that we're now at the stage of global economic lunacy where the worldwide socialist slide is so far gone that the president of Russia is lecturing the world, and particularly Europe, about the risks of socialism.
Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Vladivostok, Russia, Vladimir Putin promoted the merits of free-market economics. He said that by pulling the former Soviet satellite states into its sphere after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Europe chose to take responsibility for subsidizing their economic well-being. And now the eurozone model is on the verge of collapse itself, seemingly destined to follow in the footsteps of the old Soviet Union.
Putin's solution is to create and build influence -- and restore the lost power of the Soviet era -- through trade, without taking on the responsibility for other countries' debts or internal problems. Russia's Gazprom, for example, supplies an estimated 36 percent of Europe's gas, with that figure skyrocketing to over 80 percent in former Soviet states like Poland. The European Commission launched an investigation into Gazprom last week, threatening up to $1.4 billion in fines for unfair competition practices. Putin responded by lecturing Europe on what he portrayed as a desperate cash grab by changing the rules midgame, long after the contracts were signed and prices set.
"It seems now that someone in the European Commission has decided that we are going to share this subsidizing burden," Putin said at the conference. "That means the united Europe wants to keep political influence while we would be paying for this a little bit. This is a non-constructive approach. ... In our times we have shifted to market relations with these countries and market formation of prices. Let's stay on the ground of today realities."
Yes, let's keep this free-market show moving along unimpeded, says the president of the part of the world previously synonymous with communism.
Putin didn't stop there, either. Continuing his transformation into some kind of Russian Ronald Reagan, he lectured the world on the perils of protectionism. Admitting he wasn't blameless in sometimes taking measures to protect the sectors most vulnerable to global economic turbulence, he confessed that "addiction to the medicine of protectionism may temporarily relieve the pain, the acute symptoms, but it slows down the recovery of the global economy, hampers trade and investments."
Only time will tell to what degree Putin's actions come to match his words, but those words already stand in stark contrast to the rhetoric emanating from much of Europe and the rest of the world.