Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
RUSSIA IS WEAPONISING.... EVERYTHING. NATO commander Breedlove, a source of illumination on all things Putin, informs us that Russia is "weaponising" refugees in order to destabilise Europe. A strange word this "weaponising" which we now hear all the time; not exactly certain what it means but clearly it's a bad thing. The good folks at MofA have taken the trouble to collect examples of Russian "weaponising" things and found that it's quite a long list. Refugees, of course, and information too, but also weather and Photoshop. I am interested to learn that the word was actually around as early as 2007 and not specially invented after the coup in Kiev, as I had thought.
SOCIAL SAFETY NET. Helmer looks at polls and find rising concerns in Russia that the welfare system is wobbling. But overall, Russians understand it's a war and support their government.
KADYROV. "My time in the post of head of Chechnya has ended": presumably he will not run when his term expires next month. I am surprised: I thought Moscow was stuck with him for as long as he wanted to stay. He will, to put it mildly, have some input into who his successor is.
SYRIA. Some 100 groups are said to have signed on to the ceasefire and the Russian spokesman says it is generally holding. It only applies to groups that have stopped shooting; fighting against Daesh continues, now moving towards Palmyra. The NATO report alluded to below is impressed that Russia with 20% of the aircraft of the US coalition manages more than three times the sorties. Ankara seems to have backed off from its threats to intervene but some Saudi aircraft have arrived at Inçirlik.
MH17. Did the USA have absolutely rock-solid evidence and give it to the Dutch? Here's Kerry saying it did. Here's a (rather incoherent) RT report of hearings in the Dutch parliament which suggests the information didn't get to the Dutch-run inquiry. Helmer says something did but it doesn't seem to be very decisive. A Dutch account says it was handed to the Dutch security services (but then hurts its credibility by saying Ukraine supplied "raw" radar data). Watch the spokesmen for the US State Department and Pentagon dodge the question; surely a simple "yes we did" would suffice, wouldn't you think? Read the Dutch report saying Ukraine didn't provide primary radar coverage (down for maintenance) and chiding Russia for not doing so. But read the Russians saying that they did provide primary radar data. Despite Kerry's statement "we detected a launch from that area" the DSB report does not pinpoint said "area"; ergo it wasn't shown Kerry's data. I still say that the lack of Kerry-style evidence is telling: the absence of evidence is evidence of absence. Further: one of the key pieces of "evidence", mentioned by Kerry, are three short videos showing a Buk being moved around in rebel held areas. This argues that such videos are easily faked (and proves it by adding in other vehicles) and that these particular videos have indeed been faked. If it were as done-and-dusted as Kerry said it was, we wouldn't be wondering, would we? I am coming around to the theory that it was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter (Not necessarily sent by official Kiev: the Kolomoysky video is interesting); my principal reason is that there are not enough lethal fragments to be from a Buk (Buk warheads with "I-beam" lethal fragments have more than 2000 of them; given the detonation location, 600 or so would have struck the plane; assuming half didn't pass right through, there should be 100-300 in the wreckage. The DSB found 3 (and not very convincing examples either). So more confusion, not less.
THE PECULIAR VIEW FROM NATOLAND. Always fun to visit NATOland and rummage through its delusions. Remember Putin trolls and Russia's "information war" which had to be fought? Well, the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence (sic) says it has examined 200,000 comments on Latvia’s three main news portals between 29 July and 5 August 2014 and found – wait for it – are you ready? – that 1.45% (1.45%!) of those comments were from "hybrid trolls”. Whatever "hybrid trolls" are. Breedlove says – in public – that Russia's bombing campaign in Syria is "indiscriminate", but a private NATO study leaked by a German paper says just the opposite: "efficient and accurate". And finally the people in Latvia tell us that Putin is funding extremist forces in Europe and stirring up anger against refugees. Comments, as usual, are worth reading: the audience – Putin trolls every one, I guess – is pretty scornful: my favourite "Not sure Russia needs to get involved in toppling Merkel. She's done most of the hard work herself ". "My cleaner is sure they are coming." Beyond parody.