Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
TWO UNBELIEVABLE THINGS. I’ve been at this since the days of Chernenko and I just read something that, while not all that important, furnishes a concrete example of the unbelievable changes since those days; something that, had you suggested it was possible at almost any time in the intervening years, people would have thought you crazy. Here it is: TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice best airline in Europe was Aeroflot and it was rated the best business class in the world. It was also the world’s "most powerful” airline brand. And one of the safest. Scaroflot! Impossible to imagine, as I said, in 1985, 1995 or 2005. And here’s another unimaginable event: I well remember the grain shortages in the USSR and the annual negotiations with Canada to supply wheat and two decades I saw it when I visited a huge grain elevator complex in Murmansk that had been built to handle Canadian imports. Those days are long gone: today Russia is the leading wheat exporter and, as an extra, FT informs us that "agriculture has overtaken arms sales to become Russia’s second-biggest export sector". In the 1970s and 80s USSR meant food shortages, by the 1990s half the food in Russia was imported. I think that we are standing at the threshold of a huge growth in Russia’s food industry; its potential has never been tapped – serfdom, the village mir and collectivisation were powerful production brakes. Despite the expected tripe from the FSM – "Soviet-style shortages” "worst days of the USSR” "hurt Russia more” "backfires"(And who can forget Masha Gessen and her cheese?) it was, as I said at the time, a "clever move". A summary of the benefits. And, something else: here is Russia’s spiffy new military base at 80º North. "Eurasian economic basketcase” indeed! Russia is on a roll and consumers of the Western FSM haven’t a clue.
RUSSIA INC. Not doing badly: Medvedev reports. Notable increases are pharmaceuticals (up about 24%) and agriculture (up 5%). Unemployment is 5.5% and inflation is down to 5%. IMF head Lagarde agrees: she has praised Russia’s economic management and agrees that the economy is now growing. (Without, it should be noted, recourse to the standard IMF-style austerity package either.)
TILLERSON IN MOSCOW. Too early to know the results. See below.
SYRIA STRIKE. My theory here: it was aimed at Trump’s domestic enemies and appears to have hit the target. But another month will show the theory falsified or not. (Rather encouraged to see that Scott Adams has the same idea. But so does Maxine Waters). Moscow suspended the Russia-US MOU on Prevention of Flight Safety Incidents. The CW attack was, of course, a fake.
PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. With the election call in the UK there will be more insanity/absurdity.
WESTERN VALUES™. "West Rattled Over Russian Missiles on NATO Border". Or, as you could put it: "Russia Rattled Over NATO on Russian Missiles’ Border”. Depends on your perspective, I suppose. But it’s not Russia that’s moved, is it? "Light-hearted actions” have consequences down the line.
G7 FM MEETING. No sanctions on Russia. We know that London wanted them, Ottawa was ready to go along and Paris, Berlin and Rome grumble but sign in the end. Deduction: Washington didn’t want them.
UKRAINE. Finally someone in the West notices what may prove to be the longest-lasting consequence of the Maidan coup. Ukraine’s nuclear power plants: "corruption, which is breeding a lack of accountability and mismanagement”; "many positions at the regulatory body remain empty”; "started using dubious firms that do not possess the necessary experience”. The writer even knows about the Westinghouse fuel danger "The West has been pushing the Japanese-owned Westinghouse as an alternative source to Russian nuclear fuel… The Westinghouse product is simply not as good as the Russian fuel made for the Russian-designed reactors, creating a highly dangerous situation where the reactor could fail”. Sooner or later…
MORE UKRAINE. And the NYT notices the new history of the new Ukraine. "The O.U.N. and its military wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, or U.P.A., are now being glorified as freedom fighters. What is not mentioned is the O.U.N.’s xenophobic, anti-Semitic ideology…”. What took it so long?
STILL MORE UKRAINE. "Why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?” asked Tillerson. What you might call a reverberative question.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer