Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
Syria. So, thanks to Putin, the US is not, as we speak, bombing away in a dubious cause to the benefit of its enemies. Having read a great deal of the commentary I am struck with the gulf between America’s opinioneers and its citizens. For example, compare this incoherent anti-Putin rant with the more considered comments of its readers. I have seen this almost universally: lots of Americans understand that they would be in another war if not for Putin. However, there remains a considerable pack of people who really, really want to go to war in Syria: here is a Canadian.
Putinophilia. A side effect of the Syria crisis is an admiration for Putin in the USA. This piece sums up some of it; another;different subject; this one suggests an interesting theory for all his macho activity. More examples at Russia Debate. A lot of it is disgust with Obama, but not all. Altogether an interesting phenomenon. Again the most interesting evidence is in the comments. I am pleased to see Bill Clinton saying Putin keeps his word. I agree after years of observation: he says what he means and means what he says.
Ignorance. Not only did Senator McCain think that Pravda would be a suitable place to retort to Putin’s editorial, but he got the wrong Pravda. He’s even more out of touch with reality than previously suspected. A window into the ignorance of the American anti-Russia brigade.
Weapons to Syria. For what it’s worth, and to such experts as McCain it’s worth nothing, it has been officially announced that Moscow has signed no new arms supply contracts but it is fulfilling pre-2011 contracts of air defence and coastal defence missiles. Sergey Ivanov says the USSR did not supply warheads filled with CW to Syria. I notice the re-appearance of the story that Iraq’s CW was moved to Syria (production equipment more likely – Sarin doesn’t last long). But you don’t need a government to make it.
Russia and the world. Putin recently implied that the 1815 and 1945 settlements had endured because they involved Russia while 1919 had failed because it had not. An interesting take but I think that what he is really saying is that the only agreements or settlements that endure are consensual ones and that Russia, most of the time, is necessary to make that consensus – as are plenty of other countries, of course. For years Putin (and other Russian spokesman) have been saying that unilateralism doesn’t work: "Russia believes that international law, not the right of the strong, must apply.” The Syria crisis is an opportunity to hammer the point home. Indeed, that was the whole point of Putin’s NYT piece (comments again pretty open-minded).
NGOs. The government is offering funding to certain NGOs. Golos – the so-called "only independent vote monitoring organisation” – was turned down for a grant. No surprise, I suppose, but what was interesting was that it applied in the first place. (BTW, "election monitoring” is a key weapon in the "colour revolution” arsenal as Michael McFaul artlessly reveals here. I especially enjoyed "Yet most of these groups believed that a free and fair election would mean victory for Viktor Yushchenko. And they were right.” We know how you will freely vote before you do.)
Moscow Mayor. The incumbent Sergey Sobyanin won with just over 50%. The oppositionist Navalniy came second with something over a quarter, exceeding opinion poll predictions. What seems to have happened is that in a very low turnout of about a third, Navalniy was better able to mobilise his support. At any rate he’s claiming foul. But when so confirmed a Putin-hater as Latynina says it was a clean election, you know that that won’t fly (you may also deduce that Navalniy is losing ground among his fellow anti-Putinites.) In other elections the pedestal party won except in Yekaterinburg. I remind readers that the only real opposition in Russia that holds its ground and enjoys continued support is the Communist Party. And it just can’t muster the votes. The ones the West puffs come and go.
Earlier murders. The ex-policeman who was the spotter for the murderers of Anna Politkovskaya admitted in court that he also provided surveillance for the murderers of Paul Klebnikov. Klebnikov wrote books that seriously offended both Berezovskiy and a Chechen rebel commander. A trial accusing the latter failed.