Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
FOREIGN MEDIA. I don’t know what Sputnik’s and RT’s audiences actually are in the USA or elsewhere but indications are that they are small or even tiny. But this hasn’t affected the year’s conniption fit and so we must be protected from their influence by Google, Twitter and now the US government. Well, apart from the mockery this makes of common-sense, proportionality and those Western values they’re always boasting about, Moscow has reacted. And, as usual, in a much more powerful way. Putin signed the amendment; now "foreign media outlet distributing printed, audio, video and other messages and materials designed for an unlimited number of people may be recognised (может быть признано) as a foreign agent.” Quid quo pro. Whining has begun: the BBG, HRW, State Department.
CORRUPTION. According to Transparency International’s 2017 report, a third of Russians say they had to pay a bribe for some public service. Like Karlin, I can believe this (plus or minus – there is some tradition of giving gifts there) because, unlike the easily cooked perception scores, this is a yes or no question. But, as I argue here, this is the lowest and least important form of corruption: the worst forms aren’t even detected by the little guy because the service was stolen long before he tried to buy some of it. And I would further observe that, whatever you may say about the Duma, you can’t say it’s run by "economic elites and organized groups representing business interests": it pretty much does what the popular and elected government tells it to do. In short, not all corruptions are equally bad.
AMERICA-HYSTERICA I. It’s not working. 52% believe it’s better to have Russia on "our side” than not; 76% of Republicans and 51% of independents agree but only 29% of Democrats. (I presume Dems find it easier to believe that Trump won because Putindunnit than that he beat their candidate fair and square). It’s not working in Europe either: another poll show large majorities in Germany, Poland, France and UK would like better relations with Russia. But the effluent is still pumped out: "weaponised information". (As a readers’ guide to this sort of thing, you won’t go wrong assuming that whatever US/NATO accuse Russia of doing, they are actually doing. For example, the Pentagon "weaponised information” years ago: "Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media".)
AMERICA-HYSTERICA II. "FBI and Justice Department officials have told congressional investigators in recent days that they have not been able to verify or corroborate the substantive allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign outlined in the Trump dossier.” The collapse of the Fusion GPS operation will unravel the whole construction. And it’s coming. (And don’t forget Awan.) All this because the Dems fixed their nomination and then lost anyway.
TROUBLE IN PARADISE. There has been some kind of coup or prevented coup in Lugansk. The head of State, Igor Plotnitsky, has resigned and is said to be in Moscow. The official story is that a "criminal group” controlled from Kiev has been arrested and a coup averted. A group of Ukrainian saboteurs have been arrested. No doubt, more information will trickle out.
PAPER TIGER. Further to my suggestion that NATO is a paper tiger we learn that half of Germany’s tanks are not ready for action. Less belligerent behaviour might be prudent: Moscow doesn’t get the joke: "We need to plan and undertake measures that will help us to respond to such a scenario quickly…".
SYRIA. Lots of action. Trump has cut off arms supplies to Kurds in Syria (but, as always, can a mere POTUS make them do it?). Putin has been talking to everyone in and around the neighbourhood and lots of meetings. Patrick Lang, a connected observer, thinks it’s about over.
MAIDAN SNIPERS. One of the founding myths of the "Revolution of Dignity” was the massacre on the Maidan. Ivan Katchanovski has proved, to anyone with the capacity for objective thought, that it was a false flag operation; here is his paper; here is a summary. Two Georgian snipers have come forward to confess; here is a summary of what they said with links to the original. The story continues to develop and Katchanovski is following it.
UKRAINE. A country put together out of bits and pieces of other countries should worry as it fails further: "Poland does not hide its ambiguous intentions towards western Ukraine. First, create positions of influence, then formulate territorial claims". Meanwhile, Maidan II seems to be going nowhere (no support from outside, I guess).
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer