Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
WESTERN VALUES™. We're sure learning the difference between reality and rhetoric, aren't we? Constitutional order: Yanukovich leaves town and loses his position, Yemen president leaves town, keeps his. "I’m not going to draw parallels here" says Harf as she proceeds to. Freedom of speech: pianist cancelled because of her tweets or, as they might say, "Charlie? Qui est-il?".
AN ESSENTIAL READ. I highly recommend Vladimir Golstein's essay "Politics, Bullshit, and Ukraine". Putin & Co are telling the truth or lying; but in either case they believe there is a factual reality to be addressed. The other side is simply bullshitting: reality is whatever they say it is (vide Harf above). BS engenders conspiracy theories: obviously last year's coup was not about improving the life of Ukrainians so it must be about something else (my entries here). But read the whole essay, it's very illuminating.
THE RUBLE. Remember when it was on its way to complete destruction? Well it's now the best performing currency of the year. The Russian economy is stabilising. Predicting is tough – what you want to see often gets in the way.
CRIMEA. Crimea had a problem in that most of its fresh water came from Ukraine and Kiev could cut it off. Not any more: Russian military engineers have found aquifers and are laying pipelines. One of the biggest mis-assumptions, to my mind, of those who started the trouble in Ukraine (never forget the phone call) was the idea that Moscow was more or-less helpless to do anything. Time and time again, Moscow has out-manoeuvred Nuland & Co. Moscow will be pumping money into Crimea for obvious reasons. Nothing much had happened there under Kiev's rule (or, for that matter, anywhere else in Ukraine – its GNI grew the least of all the post soviet countries 1993-2012 – not something, I think, anyone would have predicted in 1991). So there's plenty to be done.
ONE PERCENT. Remember all that stuff about how the neo-nazis in Ukraine got hardly any votes in the elections so not to worry?Here, here, here and here? Dmitro Yarosh is now an advisor to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence and his Right Sector fighters are being taken into them. Even the normally compliant Western media has had its misgivings about Right Sector (in the past, of course):Guardian, Daily Mail, IBT, CNN. But then they fell in line and now treat the issue very circumspectly indeed, vide BBC. Putin's the Nazi, these guys aren't. More Values™. Maybe they don't plan on getting power through elections.
CRACKS IN THE MONOLITH. The 70th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany is coming up and anyone who thinks about it knows that Moscow should be the principal place to celebrate it (just as Washington would be for victory over Japan). But Washington is making a boycott a Big Thing. The Czech President is going: so will others. Indeed, it's becoming a test of independence. The foreign ministers of Hungary, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey signed a declaration on strengthening energy cooperation; in other words, Russian pipelines. Greek PM Tsipras is in Moscow now, we'll see what happens. And, a big one: everybody's joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank against Washington's wishes; note that Moscow cleverly waited until the Europeans had signed up before joining.
REAL CONCERNS? US military leaders claim the Army is too small, USAF too old, Navy ditto. This with a budget bigger than the next 8 countries. Now, these may be attempts to shake the money tree or maybe, after years of worrying about IEDs, low level infantry activity and costfree bombing of this and that, the mighty US Armed Forces aren't up to much else. Not the smartest time to pick a fight with Russia and start another war in Yemen. This writer thinks the US Armed Forces may now be hard-wired for failure.
MISSILE DEFENCE. Despite the apparent agreement with Iran, NATO says it will go ahead with missile defence plans. Putin continues to laugh.
NEW NWO. The Chinese Foreign Minister is in Moscow talking about the high level of cooperation. 107 joint agreements oncooperation and numerous long-term construction projects. It gets tighter. They say the two Presidents get along well together. Meanwhile Obama is reduced to boasting about a meaningless emissions agreement.