For the first time in his 14-year reign, it appears Russian President Vladimir Putin is coming under serious political pressure and could be losing his grip on power. Yesterday, a long-time Putin ally and adviser, Alexei Kudrin, publically announced on television that Mr. Putin was hurting the country’s “business interests” and had made Russia “the west’s adversary again”. The statement is a sign that Putin is losing the faith of his powerful oligarchs, who dominate the country’s business sectors, and that his long weak opposition is starting to mount a serious fight. In fact, the reality that Itar-Tass, a state-owned news agency, would even run the interview shows that Putin is losing his grip on the absolute power he has maintained for years. The Russian economy is slowing rapidly, the country’s banks cannot access funding even while harsher sanctions are being prepared, and according to one policy analyst “Vladimir Putin is now in the most difficult situation since he took office”.

FINSUM: Everything is at stake for the oligarchs who have supported Putin’s reign. Putin may have miscalculated badly, as if further sanctions come, his powerful constituency may fully turn against him.


Obviously fearful of angering China, British PM David Cameron made a complete turnround on promises he made to the Hong Kong government just a few years ago, and yesterday refused to meet with top former Hong Kong leaders Anson Chan and Martin Lee, instead deflecting them to low level administrators. The rejection means that Britain is highly unlikely to support the movement to protect Hong Kong’s tenuous democratic rights, despite the UK’s treaty obligation to do so, agreed when London ceded the island to Beijing in 1997. The lack of support for Hong Kong also comes with no obvious benefit for Britain, who is not receiving any special favours from Beijing for keeping quiet on the matter, though Cameron and his government are probably scared to ruffle Beijing’s feathers amidst the array of new Renminbi deals they are trying to bring through the City of London. China reacted severely two years ago when Cameron met with the Dalai Lama against Beijing’s wishes.

FINSUM: The British have completely capitulated on the issue of defending Hong Kong’s democracy, which is their responsibility. It seems a short-sighted decision considering the amount of democratically-enshrined assets, like major British banks, which exist on the island of Hong Kong.

(New York)

A major new academic study out of Columbia University has found a correlation between birth year and political viewpoint which indicates that people’s experiences between the ages of 14 and 24 are hugely influential for their future political views. The study only addresses white Americans, but shows that the political and economic climate which predominates during a generation’s teens and early twenties will guide their political views the rest of their life. An interactive chart here shows how those born in the early 1940s were profoundly shaped by President Eisenhower and leaned Republican for the rest of their lives, while those born a decade later were molded by the successes and failures of Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, leading them to be more Democratic. What this means is that the events taking place now in the United States may not only affect 2016’s presidential election but elections in 2056. The study also found that the link between advancing age and growing Republicanism has been broken.

FINSUM: This is a very important study in its own right, but also for the upcoming presidential election. Those who will be 18 years old, just old enough to vote in 2016, will have little memory of President Bush’s failures and more remember a struggling country led by a democratic president—a very different prospect to Obama’s 2008 election.

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