Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
Sochi. The anti-Sochi campaign is in full swing. (The Guardian gets everything in including the coming lack of snow about which it has some mystical foreknowledge). We have not just the homosexual stuff (a German reporter somewhat surprised to get the nonplussed view of the owner of one of two Sochi gay bars) but also the sad history of the Circassians. I have noticed pieceshereand there concluding that Russia must "acknowledge its violent history in the region” or something. That’s odd, I don’t recall huffy op-eds calling on Canada to acknowledge how it came to possess the site of the Calgary Olympics or the USA the Salt Lake City site (opportunity there for two "acknowledgements”). What a load of pretentious rubbish! The cruel fate of the Circassians is hardly unknown in Russia and the authors of these pieces seem to be equally unaware of who they are (not Turkic.Quite the reverse in fact) but also that there are plenty of Circassians still living there. And that some are returning. This is all part of the current thrust of anti-Russia propaganda. As to corruption, these expensive Olympics (but the Russian Audit Chamber says direct Olympic expenses are more like $6-7 billion) may well exceed the Olympic norm but a lot has actually been built. While the site is ideal, the decayed Soviet infrastructure was not. Here is a list in Russian of what has been created in exchange for the 50-some billion – much more than just sports facilities: roads, bridges, power plants, tourist facilities to name a few. Moscow appears to be using the Olympics as an opportunity to make its Black Sea coast into an up-to-date tourist attraction. A website written by two Westerners, one of whom lives there shows many of these new things. There are going to be a lot of surprised Westerners; but then, Westerners depending on their media for information have been surprised by Russian reality for two decades now.
Sochi Security. As I said last time, I expect jihadists will not attack Sochi directly because it will be pretty well protected. Generally speaking, while the Olympics may attract attacks in the host countries, the games themselves are pretty safe. And that’s easy to understand: a lot of terrorism (jihadism is no exception) is done with an eye to publicity and publicity may be gained more easily by killing people nearby. Sochi will have a great deal of security thrown at it. Meanwhile in the North Caucasus a full-scale security drive is on and the authorities are having some successes. Something I will be interested to watch is the behaviour of the 400 Kuban Cossacks who have been drafted in. Cossacks have been trying to re-form for some years and find a modern use that parallels their historic functions. So: disciplined or drunken? effective or just touristy?
Russia a small threat to peace. I was interested to see in an international poll that Russia hardly figured at all in the question "which country is the greatest threat to peace”. Interesting because most of the world has been subjected to two decades of propaganda about Russia’s supposed inherent lust for power, desire for empire, natural imperialism, belligerence blah blah blah. But evidently the message isn’t getting across. In only a few countries was Russia named by any more than an trivial number. My discussion here.
Politkovskaya. The interminable prosecution-bungled murder trial has acquired a new jury.
Oil spills. A subsidiary of the big Russian oil company LUKoil, LUKoil-Komi, has just been fined, at the end of a long legal case, US$18.5 million for oil spills 2011 in the Republic of Komi. This is said to be the biggest fine so far for this sort of thing.
Gas Wars. Ukrainian Energy and Coal Industry Minister Stavitsky says Ukraine has stopped buying gas from Europe and will now buy it from Gazprom at the new price. I await the headlines: Russia crushes Ukraine with low gas prices.
Georgia. The body of former PM Zhvania is to be exhumed and sent to Switzerland for forensic testing. He died in 2005 in what was said to be an accident but there have always been suspicions that Saakashvili had him killed. The West’s standard view of Saakashvili, like its one of Putin, is propaganda and spin.
Syrian CW. The impressively international effort to get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons capacity progresses. The first load of stuff has left on a Danish ship from Latakia. I am informed by my source on such matters that the USA has portable equipment on a ship which will effect the actual destruction. He also told me that the Syrian Sarin was very well-made and pure. Quite unlike the stuff discovered at Goutta. For those interested, here is a summary of the August attack and conclusions: not the Syrian government. More evidence of same hereand here.