Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
WHAT IS TO BE DONE? PCR asks. Martyanov and Saker answer. PCR responds. More, more. A collapsing imperium is dangerous: "What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta". We are in serious times, folks.
ELECTIONS. The pedestal party won most but the communists and Zhirinovskiy won some. The same boring scene for years: the ruling party is dull but people support what stands on its pedestal. They’re not very enthusiastic (turnout in the low 30s) but neither are they very discontented. The political system works well enough. Pension protests continue.
RUSSIA INC. IMF predicts 1.7% growth this year (North America 2.8% and Europe 2.4%). Deloitte CIS expresses confidence; Fitch says coped with sanctions well. I say, considering the economic war being waged against it, that Russia isn’t doing badly.
SYRIA. Two facts: Idlib is the last stronghold of jihadists in Syria and Damascus sooner or later will have to take it. Numerous threats out of FUKUS about CW attacks (Assad must be a disciple of Sun Tznever). (Check this story out and see what you think.) Very dangerous. Optimistic view that the people running the US military aren’t that stupid; pessimistic view that the neocons are that stupid; Russia is winning with the patient game; no, it’s time to sink a US ship, it’s the only way Washington will get the message. Erdoğan is playing games. BUT. Fisk finds no signs of a big offensive (but would he?) and the Kremlin feigns ignorance. Which leads me to these thoughts. Moscow is certainly aware of the correlation of forces. Moscow is talking to everybody. The clearing out of the south was accomplished with very little fighting: most of it seems to have been pre-negotiated. Russians are masters of deception in war. So I suspect that the West is being played and that what, how and when will, again, surprise the punditocracy. But it is a very dangerous situation and, as VIPS says to Trump: "The best way to assure Mr. Putin that you are in control of U.S. policy toward Syria would be for you to seek an early opportunity to speak out publicly, spelling out your intentions. If you wish wider war, Bolton has put you on the right path.” Watch this video and decide who runs State. As always, the most important question is who’s in charge in Washington? Well, maybe the truth is leaking: go to 4:20; the Netherlands awakes.
A REMINDER. OPCW Report "Destruction of declared Syrian chemical weapons completed” 4 Jan 2016. And a US company did it on a US ship.
VOSTOK 2018. Videos. MoD page. The parade. Of course the exercises are staged (I was on NATO exercises in The Day and so were they). Moscow is trying to get Washington to understand that your average gas station can’t do this.
CLINTON-YELTSIN. To summarise: please Bill, I beg you; Hah hah Boris, stick it in your ear. (IMO Yeltsin is doing what he can, but Russia is weak and USA is triumphant.) But Putin remembers.
SKRIPALMANIA. Nonsense piled on nonsense. The fabled principles of British law — presumption of innocence, prosecution must prove its case — are tossed when it’s Russians: now it’s petitio principii and "probably” all the way. The "executed” "hitmen” speak. Murray’s take: bad presentation but quite possible.
CONSPIRACY THEORIES. Theories then, facts now. "Inside Israel’s Secret Program to Back Syrian Rebels". "AQ is on our side in Syria". Official admits Skripalmania and Syria are connected.
DONETSK. The leader was killed in an indiscriminate restaurant bombing. Probably the work of Kiev. Maybe a bit of help from Washington.
UKRAINE. The US Special representative for Ukraine wants the US to supply weapons to Kiev. (Why do none of these people ever wonder what became of Ukraine’s gigantic USSR legacy arsenal? Shipped to Georgia. (Well it seemed like a good idea at the time.) Well, Russia can play that game a lot more effectively. And perhaps it’s time it openly did. Again: who’s in charge in Washington?
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer