Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
PUTIN’S ANNUAL MARATHON Q&A. (Eng) (Rus) These things function as opinion polls and we heard a lot about bad roads, rising food and medicine prices and – something which should have stopped long ago – salary arrears. After pointing out that officials have claimed the economy was on the way up seven times now, one asked whether Russia was in a "black period or a white period”; "grey” said Putin: current estimates are a slight drop this year and growth next year. A farmer hoped that the food counter-sanctions would continue for the sake of his growing business; Putin expected them to. Very deep in the weeds and not very interesting; Putin said nothing new on external matters.
PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. It’s now degenerated to bug-eyed craziness. Just this month we’ve been told that Putin is going out with Murdoch’s ex. The Panama Papers are about Putin; No! they’re by Putin. Dutch voters were thought-controlled by Putin. Putin’s secret army has infiltrated Europe. And the month isn’t even over. I look forward to her take. Squirt lighter fluid into a paper bag, take a deep breath and give us next month’s lunacy!
RUSSIAN "PROVOCATION”. Lots of excitement about Russian aircraft buzzing a US warship "in international waters”. International waters they were, but rather close to Russia. But then, NATO is never provocative: "Asked whether it was provocative to be conducting such exercises so close to Russia, he [UK defence minister] told The Guardian: ‘It is not Nato threatening Russia. This is Russia directly trying to intimidate the eastern and northern members of Nato through these flights, through its submarine activity and talk of renewing its ballistic missiles. Nato is not threatening anyone.’” Russia, on the other hand, is always provocative; illegal too: "Recent Russian military activity in European airspace is illegal, provocative and dangerous.” Probably not just a quiet cruise though – Helmer has his ideas about what was really going on. And there’s the story of the very same ship being shut down by Russian ECM in the Black Sea in 2014. So, there’s more to it than either side is saying.
WMSM. An American survey finds only 6% of the surveyed have a lot of confidence in the media; 85% rate "accuracy” as the most important component of trust. The two findings are obviously connected.
WAR PREPARATION. I believe that Moscow now understands the depth and permanence of the West’s hostility and is preparing for a real war. I have outlined the steps that are being taken in the Armed Forces here and Hahn and the Saker discuss the creation of the National Guard as a means of strengthening Russia against a "colour revolution” or "attack by refugees”. Which is not to say that Moscow wants a war; only that it realises that an attack from the West is a possibility.
NATO-RUSSIA COUNCIL. First meeting in a while. "…there can be no return to practical cooperation until Russia returns to the respect of international law.” Or, as they say in Beijing: "Russia is a painful lesson of a major power that tried to follow the West, but only woke up after gaining nothing.”
UKRAINE: MAIDAN MASSACRE. "The analysis shows that armed groups of concealed Maidan shooters first killed and wounded policemen on the Maidan and then protesters. Armed groups of ‘snipers’ and parts of leadership of the far right organizations, such as the Right Sector and Svoboda, and oligarchic parties, such as Fatherland, were involved in various capacities in the massacre.” Definitive, impeccably researched and convincing. If you want to keep your remaining illusions about the "Revolution of Dignity”, don’t read it.
UKRAINE. "Our man” Yats is out, Groysman is in. We’ll see how long that lasts: "the new team should move forward quickly on Ukraine’s reform program… ”. Parubiy replaced him as parliament chair. And here’s who he is, again: more news the WMSM won’t give you.
YUKOS. Just when I had started to assume that law was just a faint memory in the West where Russia is concerned, I am surprised: the ruling that Russia had to pay a gigantic sum to Yukos shareholders has been quashed. Why? "they lacked jurisdiction”. Therefore, it should never have happened in the first place. This seizure is presumably over.
SYRIA. Janes tells us, in some detail, that Washington is pumping weapons into Syria again. Further evidence of two possibilities 1) no one is in charge in Washington 2) Washington simply cannot be trusted. Which, to a foreign capital trying to business with it, is a distinction without a difference.
IRAN. The first S-300s were shown at a parade. Ironic to think that a lasting effect of the neocon domination of Washington will be an Iran stronger than it would have been otherwise, isn’t it?
Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer