On Sunday, the people of Russia voted one of the 21st century's most notorious, most ambitious, most autocratic leaders back into power.
Garnering over 63% of the popular vote, Vladimir Putin's biggest and most uncontested support came from places you might not imagine would like him very much...
Like voting precinct 451, based in the Chechan capital city of Grozny.
Of the 1,389 voters registered there, an amazing 1,482 voted in favor of the former KBG surveillance agent.
Grozny boasted a 106% voter support rate in a place where Putin waged war not once — but twice — since the start of his career; a place that remained under the boot of covert (but nonetheless brutal) Spetsnaz "counter-terrorism" mini-invasions until as recently as 2009.
Not too shabby of a turnout, wouldn't you say?
If the fact that a guy with scruples like those is single-handedly in control of the world's biggest and least well-maintained nuclear arsenal doesn't impress you, then consider this: Six years from now, he'll probably get re-elected in the exact same fashion, extending his reign through the year 2024...
And I do mean reign.
Not counting the brief charade that was Dmitry Medvedev's tenure (orchestrated by the outgoing president himself because Russian law forbids a president to hold office for more than two consecutive terms), the most likely scenario will be a full quarter century of unchallenged Putin rule.
That would make Putin only second to Stalin as far as the length of dominance over the Russian people since the fall of the Romanovs in 1917.
And since there are 93 nameless pro-Putin votes on record at Precinct 451, I'm going to claim one as my own...
Because right now, Putin might be one of the best friends a lot of us here in the United States have.
My Vote for President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
You see, the control this tyrant holds over the world's largest nation isn't just over its people; it's over the enormous resource wealth locked inside their borders.
The statistics are staggering...
Russia is sitting on over 30% of the world's natural gas supplies.
They are the world's single biggest producer of crude oil, averaging about 10.5 million barrels per day — 20% more than the Saudis and second overall only to the 22-member-strong Arab League.
And unlike the Saudis, these production levels had a decade-long breather during the breakup and restructuring period — which means production is still far from peaking.
Of course, there's a flip side to all of this...
Russia's industrial infrastructure is crumbling.
Former and once again current President of the Russian Federation Putin himself has stated that at least $300 billion will need to be invested just to maintain current production levels through the year 2020.
Other less-biased sources, namely the Russian Academy of Sciences, have pinned that figure north of the $2 trillion mark: “According to our preliminary calculations, our technological funds in those industries, where we are still internationally competitive, will run out in seven years,” stated Ruslan Grinberg, Director of the Institute of Economics (RAS), in an interview three years ago.
Unfortunately for Putin, who slides back into power amidst very public protests calling for him to get out of Moscow, most of this investment capital will have to come from foreign sources.
At a time when you need empathy — or at the very least, enough trust to initiate trillion-dollar business endeavors with major international backers — it's not necessarily good to be in the same league as Stalin...
Will foreign businesses — the large, reputable, multinational kind needed to sign on the dotted line if the Russians stand a chance of successfully developing their vast resources — jump at the opportunity to enter into negotiations with a head of state who threatened to cut off the gas supply of a entire nation of 46 million, as Putin did to Ukraine in 2009?
Will foreign businesses be eager to partner with a man whose recent election was enthusiastically endorsed by the likes of Iran's own cuddly Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
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Will foreign businesses feel safe siding with a ruler who recently stated that any military action against Iran's nuclear weapons program by Western powers would be met with "catastrophic" consequences?
Will foreign businesses be willing to entrust their money to a man whose estimated (but never officially disclosed) net worth of $40 billion (Putin maintains to be worth around US$100,000), makes him the world's richest living head of state?
When you put all the facts together, does Vladimir Putin look like a man about to land $2 trillion in foreign investment capital for the purposes of modernizing and expanding a legal, efficient, and most of all profitable enterprise?
If there is any choice in the matter, then the answer is no.
Putin is bad for business, and the Russians know it.
A declining economy characterized by sudden spikes and deep, bitter valleys is one of the key fears associated with another 6-12 years of Putin authority.
And one of the reasons protestors are turning out by the hundreds of thousands is to prevent this bleak future from becoming a reality.
Thanks entirely to the limited, inherently untrustworthy nature of Putin's autocracy, the bright, hydrocarbon-powered future Russia had envisioned will likely remain more dream than reality...
A national tragedy for a people accustomed to national tragedies.
Fortunately, when it comes to the question of where the global oil and gas markets can go for their next couple decades' worth of fuel, there's a very rational alternative.
You see, for the next several decades, domestic oil and gas production will become an increasingly important factor in U.S. economic landscape.
The Russian stats were big...
Ours are Bigger
Recent geological surveys estimate total recoverable North American crude oil deposits could contain as much as 2.1 trillion barrels.
That's eight times what the Saudis have.
The only reason we didn't get a shot at that crude sooner was because the technology just wasn't there to do it on a practical level.
Today that technology is available — and a resource that Putin could only dream of lies at our fingertips.
With production already surging, the heart of the Bakken mega-formation is the focal point of this national recommitment to domestic fossil fuel production.
An American oil shale industry insider and a close associate of mine, Keith Kohl has been playing this market since the first signs of the boom started cropping up back in the mid 2000s.
Over the years, he's picked dozens of gems out of the multitude of firms making early ventures in the region.
Many of them are now rapidly-expanding powerhouses with oil and gas interests all across North America — and billions in cash and assets to keep pace with growing demand.
The original bull on America,
Brian is a founding member and President of Angel Publishing and investment director for the income and dividend newsletter The Wealth Advisory. He writes about general investment strategies for Wealth Daily and Energy & Capital. Known as the "original bull on America," Brian is also the author of the 2008 book, Profit from the Peak: The End of Oil and the Greatest Investment Event of the Century. In addition to writing about the economy, investments and politics, Brian is also a frequent guest on CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox and countless radio shows. For more on Brian, take a look at his editor's page.