Spring has bypassed the Westcoast and it feels more like October and November: Mayvember Clare calls it. ‘I have yet to see any bees in the garden,’ she said. Maybe we just forget and cannot wait for summer to arrive. It’s the middle of May and the temperature creeps barely into the double digits. La Niña. No matter, I love the long days and the fact that it’s light until 9PM.
Camp is back this week, already waiting for me at our usual table, glumly staring out at the grey, wet world. Before I had a chance to properly settle myself, he let me have the good news.
‘According to a recent article in the Economist, it seems that Russia’s economy is back on its feet, defying predictions of collapse. The Ruble is now more valuable than before the invasion of Ukraine and they’re keeping up payments on their foreign currency bonds, much different than Ukraine’s economy.’
‘Surely, sanctions and the pullout of western firms must have a profound impact on their economy,’ I said.
‘Yes, prices have risen about ten percent but Russians are spending freely in cafés, bars and restaurants, according to a survey by Sherbank, Russia’s largest bank.’
‘I suppose the high price of oil is helping them as well.’
‘Since the invasion Russia has exported $ 65 billion worth of fossil fuels and their revenue from hydrocarbons rose by over eighty percent, year on year. Let’s face it, even before the war, Russia was a fairly closed economy.’
‘What about all the sanctions and frozen accounts?’ I said.
‘Many were able to move their money out of accounts in Switzerland and England before they were frozen and data from Marine Traffic shows that some superyachts owned by Russian oligarchs sailed to friendlier ports in the Maldives and Montenegro.
‘I guess it’s to be expected. According to Bill Browder, a lot of the ill begotten gains of the kleptocrats in Russia were able to move out of accounts from Credit Suisse of Bank Vontobel before being frozen. Although the Swiss have hitched their sanctions-wagon to the EU’s, their bureaucracy is slow and sluggish. ‘
‘Russia’s only victory so far is Mariapol but they had to destroy the entire city in order to libertate it…’
‘Yes, a sad claim to victory and at what tragic cost in human lives.’
We both shifted attention to our beers and stared out at the gun-metal water and the equally grey cloud cover.
‘Do you think all these confiscated monies should be used to rebuild Ukraine, which the Russians are systematically destroying. Proceeds of crime and war should always go to the victims.’
‘Easier said than done my friend. Moral imperative alone does not supersede the rule of law,’ Camp said, ‘and we do not live in a perfect world. Money has its own life and can move in mysterious ways. And the war is a long way from over.’
‘Closer to home we have the leadership contest of the conservative party. What a freakshow.’
‘Yes, it’s not about leadership or policy but about personalities and who is the most radical fringe candidate. Andrew Coyne from the Globe and Mail put it like this. ‘Out and out wackjobbery.’ The candidates seem to focus on the seven per cent of the unvaccinated or the even smaller minority who are into Bitcoin and then theorize about George Soros or the World Economic Forum secretly controlling our lives and cheering the lawless mob that took over Ottawa.’
‘Bizarre and sad. Imagine Pierre Poilievre as prime minister? Now that is truly frightening. I think I need another drink.’
‘And here it comes. Vicky, you’re our ray of sunshine on this dreary day.’
‘Don’t go all maudlin on me now fellows, there is always sunshine after rain and good times follow bad times. Like that old song, Time is on my side.’
‘Old song? It’s the Rolling Stones?’
‘I rest my case,’ Vicky said with a chuckle.