Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
NEW WEBSITE. Check out http://russia-insider.com/en. Aims to provide a better source of Russia-related news. You will be able to read today what the Western MSM will grudgingly admit to in a few months.
CORRUPTION. We are informed that peculation in the defence sector may have totalled half a billion dollars. We cannot fail to notice that former Defence Minister Serdyukov walks free (as, come to think of it, do the Luzhkovs). I have always said I’ll believe that the anti-corruption drive is really biting when someone in an office near Putin or Medvedev is arrested. Hasn’t happened yet.
MILITARY EXERCISES. There have certainly been a lot of military exercises and drills in Russia this year. All quite understandable. Until 2008 I think Moscow operated on the assumption that the threat from NATO could be handled by nuclear deterrence and that Russia’s main security problems were from jihadists in the Caucasus and Central Asia. But the Georgian attack on Ossetia, which Moscow suspects was egged on by some people in Washington – certainly there were "mixed messages” – taught them that proxy wars will be coming. The fighting in Ukraine, will not have made them any less certain of this. Hence, the big drive for up-to-date and well-equipped conventional forces. George Kennan saw it all coming: "I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever.” Reason or not, here we are today.
TRUCE IN UKRAINE. Is holding. More or less. Still some shelling but prisoner exchanges are happening and some pullbacks. Atrocity reports from the OSCE. More coming. Westerners, duped by reports of Kiev gains – this BBC map was especially misleading – have no idea of the scale of Kiev’s defeat – 65% of its military hardware lost. Only now are Western media outlets starting to report reality. The NYT reports that Kiev took so few prisoners (or have so few still alive) that they kidnap civilians to make up the numbers.) Kiev was utterly defeated and did appalling things: will your news outlet tell you?
WHAT WAS IT ALL FOR? The whole thing began 21 November 2013 when Yanukovych decided to delay the implementation of the EU agreement to take Russian responses into account. On 12 September 2014 Poroshenko decided to delay the implementation of the EU agreement to take Russian responses into account. Mercouris sums up the cost of the eleven-month delay in that decision.
BACKING DOWN? Did Obama just intimate that he finds Crimea in Russia and a frozen conflict in eastern Ukraine acceptable? Or was it just empty talk? See Sean’s Russia Blog for the suggestion.
GENERAL WINTER. The coal shortage in Ukraine may reach five million tonnes. The head of the Ukrainian gas company says Ukraine either has to save five billion cubic metres of gas or buy it from Russia. Going to be cold.
SAAKASHVILI. Who has not set foot in his native land since he ceased to be President, has now had all his property in Georgia seized as well as an arrest warrant issued. Do you think he and Poroshenko ever discuss what happens afterwards?
POROSHENKO’S VISITS. He visited North America, addressed Parliament and Congress, standing ovations all round. "The aggression against Ukraine has become one of the worst setbacks for the cause of democracy in the world in years” and so on. But, it seems, not with much practical result.
OLD DISPUTES? Both India and Pakistan have filed applications to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation; given their long hostility this is somewhat surprising. The Chinese President has said, after talks with India’s PM, that Beijing is ready to cooperate with Delhi over the disputed territories. Meanwhile, many deals in the works between the two. Again, interesting. Of course a common threat can make people re-think the relative importance of things (witness Greece and Turkey in NATO).