Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
US ELECTION. The chance of war has gone up a bit: the House investigation into the conspiracy will stop (unless Nunes can do anything in the next two months) and go into reverse. Any move Trump makes towards improving relations with Russia will be met by the House shrieking he’s a Putin puppet: the new people in charge there are too heavily invested in the Russia story to stop now. The US political system will be seized up – lots and lots of investigations. Threats and counter threats. Not such a bad thing for the rest of us if the US system turns into a cannibal banquet but further ratcheting up the anti-Russia hysteria is not so good (top priority says Schiff). (A Chinese view of increased danger).
COINCIDENCE? 25 October 2018, China: "concentrate preparations for fighting a war”. 26 October 2018, Russia: "Yes, Russia is preparing for war”. They hear what’s said; they see what’s happening in their neighbourhoods. They draw conclusions and take steps.
THE MOTHERLAND CALLS. A Russian diplomat says Russian exiles are returning. I can believe it: they moved West for security or better money; as Russophobia intensifies (see below) it’s not safer and maybe the money’s not so good after all. I expect to see a steady trickle of returnees.
NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. "Half of the Russians in London are spies, claims new report". (But why not all of them? They’re Russians, after all, and should shut up and go away.) That’s 75 thousand Russian spies. Wow! And the report says there are only 200 case officers to handle them. But that’s nothing for Putin’s superhuman minions: they threw the US election with 80K FB posts buried among 33 trillion posts (that’s about half a billion others to every "Russian” post). They control time: they arrived in Gatwick at 1500 on a flight scheduled to arrive at 1545 that actually arrived at 1558. (Gotta be pretty stupid or inattentive to swallow this nonsense.)
SWIFT. Is a network linking banks around the world enabling transactions to move around easily and securely. US-dominated, it was used because it worked. But once Washington turned it into a weapon against Iran in 2012 (and again just now), it stopped being so convenient. It’s not fantastically complicated to replicate, SWIFT was used because it was expedient. But, if you’re on Washington’s hitlist, or fear you may be, it’s not so attractive. So Moscow, which is on the hitlist, has developed its own system and is linking other countries to it. It’s the same thing with the "petrodollar": useful until Washington weaponised it; then time to find an alternative. And, when you must, you will: Delhi will pay for its S400s in rubles; Iran has turned off transponders on its tankers; Hungary upped its gold reserves (and so did Russia – now 17% of FOREX). The SWIFT story is an interesting demonstration of the fact that, sometimes, using it can mean losing it.
EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Macron calls for real European armed forcesand Europe continues to be rebellious about Washington’s stance on Iran (new sanctions imposed – but with waivers to its oil customers. But not for the EU). Ah well, talk is cheap – especially in the EU – and there are formidable problems creating a European army – a new report shows the stunning incapacity of the German forces. They would have to completely rethink the Russia relationship then find the mountains of money to build up their forces, support elements and supply chains. Today Europe relies on the US to provide all these things. The US military, in its turn, as a new report shows, depends on foreign suppliers or a single struggling domestic manufacturer for several hundred key inputs… (NATO should meditate on being a little less demanding, don’t you think?) But the Istanbul meeting did show a refreshing independence from Paris and Berlin. It’s rather like the SWIFT story: they went along with the USA because it was easy and it worked well enough. But it’s no longer easy and it doesn’t work so well.
SYRIA. While the Russia-Turkey-France-Germany meeting on Syria in Istanbul did not settle all issues, or maybe even any issue, it was momentous because of no USA and the end of the "Assad must go” magical spell. Moscow continues to give us lessons on how to blend military power with diplomatic skill. Meanwhile, in Syria, demonstrating the opposite, we see US-backed forces fighting Turkey. As I wrote three years ago, it’s not hard to see why Moscow runs rings around Washington here and elsewhere. The midterms will probably put Washington back to недоговороспособность: no agreement possible either because it can’t make one or won’t keep it.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer