Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
TIME FOR A RE-THINK, ACROSS THE BOARD, DON'T YOU AGREE? Ukraine hasn't turned out well for anybody, has it? Libya hasn't either. The longest war gets longer. More war in Iraq. Do all the refugees come from places where NATO has been active; or just almost all of them? The West greatly underestimated Russia's military power. (I remember writing briefing notes in the 1990s warning that while it might seem to be a lot of fun to kick Russia around when it was weak, it wouldn't always be weak.) Former US defense secretary says the US training program in Syria was "nuts". European Commission chief says "we can't let our relationship with Russia be dictated by Washington". Taliban surprises the Americans; Russia surprises the Americans. Washington hopes Iraq will not sign on to the Russian effort; too late. "Another A2/AD bubble". Intelligence agencies rebel. The war party's response? "get tough on Putin". Time to man up and admit that it's not weakness, it's policy: everything the West/NATO/USA has done in the last decade has made things worse.
BUSY. If you look at his schedule, you can see that Putin is constantly meeting with people in and around Syria. There was a lot of preparation. Indeed, it seems that only Washington was kept out of the loop.
CRUISE MISSILES. In the INF Treaty the USA insisted that sea-launched cruise missiles (of which it had a monopoly) be excluded. Monopoly no more.Here's a perceptive article on the Russian system and a video of animaginative deployment in shipping containers; note the slogan at the end "Every state has the right to independence". The US carrier battle group left the Gulf which may or may not be related to learning that it was in range of some insignificant ship in the Caspian Sea. Of all places.
WESTERN VALUES™. Should US military personnel be found responsible for the Kunduz hospital attack, "it's a safe bet" that there will be no involvement of the ICC. On the other hand, Washington supports an effort to have Syria be indicted by the ICC. And, now, the Drone Papers.
MH17 REPORT. Not impressed. My principal observation: DSB's direction of attack only possible if damage to port wing and engine ignored – as it was. Note the missing radar data from Ukraine and NATO. Identification of Buk depends on three or four particles. I call it a "limited hangout".
GHOUTA CW ATTACK. Two Turkish parliamentarians come within an ace of saying that the sarin gas came from Turkey as part of a "false flag" operation. Will your local media outlet report this?
UKRAINE. I have always thought that what Moscow wants from Ukraine can be simply expressed: a country that pays its gas bills on time, is not a NATO launch pad and doesn't have a crisis every five years that keeps everybody in Moscow up all night. In short, prosperous, neutral, stable. I agree (as I usually do) withAlexander Mercouris's argument expressed here that it's moved a lot closer to that end. The latest "Normandy format" talks have hammered some points home that were always in the Minsk agreement but Kiev had ignored; it appears Paris and Berlin have woken up to their dilemma. Kiev must talk to Donetsk to work out some real autonomy and it has to rein in the quasi-independent militia groups. More attacks are just more defeats. Time has been bought: I believe that Putin & Co understand – or hope, at least – that Ukrainians are not really represented by the corrupt plutocrats and nazi freaks now running the place and is playing for time: sooner or later the junta will go and then Moscow will be closer to the Ukraine it wants. Which is, of course the Ukraine that rational people in Europe should also want. (There are already a couple of million Ukrainian refugees in Russia, what happens if hundreds of thousands want to get into Europe?) A recent Ukrainian poll shows slightly more people want to begin big protests than did in 2013. Meanwhile, we learn that Kiev is starting an investigation into "the Heavenly Hundred". Gordon Hahn speculates on why Kiev would be entertaining the possibility that the killings were done by the "Maidan defenders" and not – as legend says – by Yanukovych. 16,000 deserters out there, many with weapons. Worse to come, I fear.
MISTRALS. Russia is "satisfied". Egypt (Egypt? What's it need an expeditionary force for?) will be buying them. Hollande hopes to sell more ships to Russia. What do you bet that, after a decent interval, Egypt sells them to Russia? If so, Poland and the Baltics will have apoplexy.