Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
RUSSIA: REALITY AND ILLUSION. In my employed days (10 years ago this week!) we Russia hands would periodically be visited by someone from our Embassy who would tell us (expressing surprise) that Moscow was safe, interesting, the people "normal” and so on. I testily told one once that all he was telling us, who already knew this, was how bad Western (and Embassy) reporting was on the reality of Russia. Nicolai Petro has written a masterful piece on this persistence of an out-of-date and wrong-headed picture that is still the foundation of so much comment. "Paradigm blindness occurs when an event remains invisible because the observer has no context or expression for naming it. Simply put, Americans cannot talk about Russia as a democracy because there is no frame of reference for Russian democracy in their minds.” He sadly concludes that "Russophobia is a chronic condition for American elites” and that it is "a by-product of American exceptionalism”. You should read the original but Paul Robinson summarises it. I notice it all the time: to say "Russian elections” is to get a smile – "everybody knows” they don’t have them, ditto "Russian law” and so on. An inadvertently hilarious illustration of self-deception masquerading as analysis can be found here: "Our foreign policy successes have been far more numerous than our mistakes, and the benefits of American involvement around the globe far outweigh the shortcomings”, "Putin’s Moscow has sought to rebuild Russia’s prestige by challenging the United States in its Allies without moral constraint” and so on. In short: we bomb hospitals by mistake, Russians do it on purpose. Dangerous stuff to be thinking these days.
OOPS. The Russians claim to have two Tomahawk missiles from Syria; they say they will study them so as to better counter them. This will not bother the Pentagon which denies that any such thing happened.
SPIEF. Took place last week. May prove to be an event of some significance depending on Europe’s reaction to Trump’s cancellation of the Iran agreement and tariffs. Serious meetings with Japan, France and the IMF, China and, a few days before with India and Germany. Interesting that, no matter what, they come to talk to Putin sooner or later, isn’t it? There’s a new world a-borning but it will take a while yet.
SANCTIONS. Oleg Deripaska has resigned as CEO of Rusal; the idea is that since the US has sanctioned him personally, the company can now function. But so long as the US sanctions random people for things Russia didn’t do, who can say? Washington currently involves 20 countries in sanctions; or is it more? You add it up. Once on the list, you never got off and Jackson-Vannik morphs into Magnitskiy.
MH17. Is back and just in time for the World Cup. Some old Bellingcat videos and a conveniently-just-discovered-somewhere-sometime 30-year old missile bit. Meanwhile Kerry’s "we observed it” is nowhere to be seen and Ukrainian radar was "down for maintenance". Who knew that the mighty US intelligence structure all comes down to social media and and one guy in the UK?
SKRIPALMANIA. "British Hostage Video Of Yulia Skripal Released". But, as is argued here, maybe she bravely negotiated what she could say. I stick by what I said at the start and I am pleased to see that the readers of the Daily Mail (one of the few MTP outlets that still allows comments) are equally scornful. (PS: I especially enjoyed it when Lexus and Vovan got Johnson to promise: "evidence we many be able to produce in due course". I thought they already had all the evidence). Craig Murray discusses.
SRIPAL KIEV. I don’t know what the point of this idiotic death and resurrection was, but be assured that Putin will continue to be blamed for it. Stupidest take (so far): "The Babchenko stunt may end up feeding the Kremlin spin machine": those pesky Russians will use our lies to prove that we lie.
PHONE PRANKS. Lexus and Vovan, pretending to be the Armenian PM, talk to Boris Johnson; the Foreign Office say it was the "latest desperate attempt by the Kremlin to save face” and Johnson figured it out pretty quickly. "Quickly” in this case being 18 minutes. You have to wonder: can anyone with an accent and a story get to talk these people? Lexus and Vovan have done this many times.
UKRAINE. It’s not just "Putin trolls”: from an American Jewish publication: "Violent Anti-Semitism Is Gripping Ukraine — And The Government Is Standing Idly By". The legacy of Nuland’s "Revolution of Dignity”: nazi recrudescence, war with Russia and – potentially worse – nuclear disaster.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, CanadaRussia Observer