Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
AMERICA-HYSTERICA. "A New Report Raises Big Questions About Last Year’s DNC Hack” finally got the VIPS analysis into the mainstream. (Briefly: Guccifer 2.0 documents were locally downloaded and doctored to give a Russian flavour). Has this killed the story? Maybe: the MSM has been shrieking about other things since. (And the interminable US investigations inch closer to the truth.) Normal hysteria returns: "Putin’s Hand Can Clearly Be Seen In the Chaos of a Destabilized West". Amazing how powerful these people think he is, isn’t it? Nothing is beyond his reach (except Kiev and Vilnius.)
DIPLOMATIC PROPERTY. A complete violation of the Vienna Convention: "Article 22. The premises of a diplomatic mission… are inviolable… The host country must never search the premises…”. Washington has set a precedent that will come back to bite it: what’s to stop any country that thinks it’s on Washington’s target list from doing the same? Incredible. Who’s in charge?
BRIDGE. The Kerch Strait bridge rolls along. Here’s the railway arch being moved into position and the first ship passing under it. Here’s an amusingly one-sided account of things from the Daily Signal.
ZAPAD 2017. NATO is giving itself a major case of the fantods over this exercise "close to its borders”. The website so you can follow yourself: 14-20 September in Russia and Belarus, 13K troops, 70 aircraft, 250 tanks, 200 guns and 10 warships. "Anti-terrorist” of course – aren’t they all these days? – "The exercise stipulates that some extremist groups have penetrated… ". They have them every four years.
QUAGMIRES. Shortly after Moscow began its intervention in Syria, Obama opined "An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire and it won’t work". Well, yesterday Damascus broke the seige of Deir ez-Zor which probably marks the beginning of the mopping up phase. In short it’s not a quagmire and it didwork. The US involvement in Afghanistan, on the other hand, is about to enter year 17, getting on for twice as long as the Soviets were there. That is a quagmire and that hasn‘t worked; the Pentagon isn’t even sure how many soldiers it has there: 8.4K, 11K or more? Russia has had three military actions this century – Chechnya II, Ossetia and Syria – all victories; all US military interventions have been failures. What’s the difference? I would suggest that Russia initiates military violence with a clear plan 1) to do only what violence can do 2) that is integrated with a diplomatic and civil program for the things it can’t and 3) coordinated with reliable allies on the ground. When it has done what it set out to do, it stops. Washington, on the other hand, 1) expands its aims after the initial success far past those that violence can achieve 2) has a negligible diplomatic effort and 3) its allies on the ground turn out to be phantasms of the Washington echo chamber. Added to which, I do not believe that the US military is nearly as competent as its cheerleaders think it is; I suspect it resembles the post-Vietnam mess I saw on exercises in Germany in the 1980s. Maybe even "hardwired for failure".
ISRAEL. Jerusalem seems to have understood its defeat sooner than Washington. Iran has a much stronger presence in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq thanks to two decades of calamitous interventions. It is argued here and herethat a nervous Netanyahu received a dusty answer from Putin in Sochi: Iran is Russia’s "strategic ally in the Middle East”.
BRICS. The summit communiqué is rather blah except for 10 and 11 which deal with finance and currencies. There’s a story that China "is preparing to launch a crude oil futures contract denominated in Chinese yuan and convertible into gold". This would be a strong blow to the power of the US dollar and, by extension, of Washington itself. When Kennan warned against the "superficial and ill informed” decision to expand NATO I don’t think he foresaw all the downstream consequences. Beijing, famous for long-term thinking, took a warning from it too. Newton’s Third Law of geopolitics.
OOPS! It will be at least 2024 before the US can replace the Russian rocket motors. Carefully excluded from Congress’ sanctions bill of course.
KOREA. Has there been much mention in your local news outlet of the US-South Korea exercises of 21-31 August which, they say, sometimes include practising "decapitation strikes”? (The media often leaves out important synchronicities.) I’ve heard that North and South will meet in St Petersburg. We shall see; there is a solution to the problem: what Beijing calls "double suspension". And it probably doesn’t require Washington: Seoul could agree to stop the exercises and tell some of the 35K+ US troops to leave. Putin has strongly condemned Pyongyang’s tests: "a flagrant violation".
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer