Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
DEMOGRAPHICS. I was going to write about demographic trends but Karlin has done it first and better. In the early 1990s more died than were born, a decade later the two trends began to reverse direction and today births slightly exceed deaths. He believes that the TFR has stabilised at 1.75 making it one of the higher rates in Europe. Life expectancy has risen from a low of 64 in the mid 1990s to nearly 72 today. The abortion rate has declined a lot – cut in half in the last four years – since the mid-1990s. Karlin sees this as a return to demographic normalcy, suggesting that he expects it to stabilise at these rates. I’m not sure: Russia has reversed the decline, something very few countries in modern times have done. Maybe Russia’s population will continue to grow. Why people en masse decide to have or not have that extra child is rather puzzling. Certainly (for once) Russians are confident their country is moving in the right direction (fourth in the world in fact – ahead of any in the "West”). So, if having confidence in the future makes a lot of parents have another kid…
FAKE NEWS ON RUSSIA. I hope this becomes a regular series: five in a week and a half.
KERCH BRIDGE. A photo from the ISS of the portion to Tuzla Island (Now also on Google Maps).
PHONE PRANKS. Russian phone pranksters, pretending to be Ukraine’s PM, got Rep Walters to express concern over Putin’s fixing the Limpopo election and invading Gabon. Then they called McCain.
NAVALNIY. He has been given a 5 year suspended sentence over embezzlement of funds from the KirovLes company. He still plans political activity but his day is over: another oppositionist with minimal support at home boomed by Western GONGOs. The truth is that there is very little opposition to Putin & Co – maybe 25% tops – and probably half of that thinks he’s too soft.
SANCTIONS. I believe Western sanctions and Russia’s counter sanctions have been good for Russia. I am interested to see a poll in which nearly half of Russians claim to be unaffected by Western sanctions. I think people who expect Moscow to offer a lot of concessions to end them have got it backwards.
MILITARY TECHNOLOGY. A mobile laser system designed to "dazzle” laser-guided weapons. A jam-proof radio using rapid frequency-hopping. The "Soratnik” armed robot vehicle, tested in Syria, will be put into service this year. The all-round anti missile radar detection system is complete. The Armed Forces are over half equipped with "new weaponry”. I and others have said it before: Moscow has given up expecting anything from the West and fears that it may have to fight a defensive war. Hahn describes Putin’s evolution from optimism to distrust concisely here. I believe that NATO’s gratuitous destruction of Libya was the turning point. Can Trump reverse the trend?
NEW NWO. Some interesting Western polls. Four NATO members – Bulgaria, Greece, Slovenia and Turkey – say Russia is their preferred ally in case of a military threat! Support for NATO in Ukraine – never very high despite all Washington’s investment – has declined: in 2014 36% saw it as protection and 33% as threat; now it’s 35% to 29% the other way around. In Finland, despite considerable effort, opposition to NATO membership has increased from 58% in 2015 to 61% in 2016. Russia places only sixth on a list of enemies/unfriendlies for Americans. A very recent poll finds Americans exactly divided (43%-43%) on whether Russia is friendly or not. Karlin presents a very interesting hypothesis. That’s pretty amazing given six months of intense anti-Russia propaganda from all sources. The anti Russia mob are over-egging the pudding. (Not to mention that if Putin really is that all-powerful maybe it’s prudent to get on his good side). And, as Swedes are discovering right now, they have more pressing concerns than imaginary Russian submarines in the Archipelago.
MAIDAN MASSACRE. Third anniversary last Monday; it is a key founding myth of today’s Ukraine. Ivan Katchanovski has proved "that the massacre was a false flag operation.” A long read but apodictic.
DONBASS. Putin has signed a decree recognising certain low-level documents issued by the rebel authorities in the Donbass. This will no doubt get people excited but it should be recalled that Moscow supports – indeed is one of the authors of – the Minsk agreement that envisages the area remaining part of Ukraine (however unrealistic that may seem today). His decision may be related to the constant shelling of towns there – which even RFE knows was started by Kiev – and reports of ballistic missiles fired into the civilian areas and would perhaps be a form of pressure on Kiev. There is also a humanitarian motive to allow easier border crossing – at least a million Ukrainians have fled to Russia.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer