Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
TIME AND PREDICTIONS. Gorbachev became GenSek 34 years ago on Monday. I remember Dr Leonid Abalkin saying first stage six months, second stage three years, third stage 30 years. And I’ve kept that in the back of my mind ever since. Well, here we are, plus or minus: 1985.25+33.5=2018.75 years. (Remember that he said this back when people were babbling about how you can’t cross a chasm in two steps, shock therapy, 500 days and similar feel-good bromides. Read Janine Wedel’s book and go back to the day when some American operator knocked on a door in St Petersburg, recognised his doppelganger, and they realised how much they could steal. Now Russian luxury cars in Swiss car shows which is a sign of something.) I met him againwhen I was a dip on Moscow: I think he didn’t become world-famous because he didn’t speak English but, truth to tell, English fluency probably wouldn’t have helped because what he was saying didn’t Fit The Story. But the people who were proved wrong well before he was proved right are still out there gilding turds; for example.
TAXI! Is Russia going to lose its monopoly as the Only Taxi Service to the ISS?
SANCTIONS. RUSAL profits up and Russia’s European gas market share up. Not working. Three reasons: the West’s so-called world community isn’t that large; Russia is not just a "gas station” – it’s a full-service economy; Russians don’t give in. (And a fourth – Washington’s "shallow bench” on Russia.)
GUNS. Shoygu addressed a Duma committee: 316 weapons tested in Syria. In six years 217 new nuclear missiles; 3 SSBNs; 57 spacecraft; 7 submarines; 3,712 new and upgraded tanks; more than 1,000 planes and helicopters; 161 surface ships. See below and below.
WAR GAMES. Some attention has been given to the findings of RAND that the US has "its ass handed to it” in war games with Russia and China. (In their home ground, of course: the USA remains almost 100% safe from foreign attack.) No news to some of us (I here and here) but somewhat of a shock at home. But, you’ll be happy to hear, the problem can be fixed with a few billion dollars. (The US already outspends the next eight countries but just a few more bucks and it’ll be done.) What is striking about this sort of thing is that there is never any consideration of what diplomacy could do or that the US should stay out of Russia and China’s home ground. Reminds one of Einstein’s supposed remark about insanity, doesn’t it?
HOW WE LOST RUSSIA. US Ambassador explains. Haven’t read it but a colleague has so I don’t have to: "our junior partner” "post-traumatic stress disorder” "little inclination to concede much to a declining power.” "Putin has a remarkable capacity for storing up slights and grievances, and assembling them to fit his narrative of the West trying to keep Russia down.” Poor Americans! What can you do with such an sulky neighbour?
TRUMP AND THE GORDIAN KNOT. Washington is said to be considering charging hosts for US bases (at 150%); threatens Turkey; threatens Germany; threatens Italy. I still like my theory that Trump’s doing it on purpose to make them cut the knot.
US MEDIA. A poll shows that "hardly any confidence at all in the press” is the winning answer.
PROBLEMS WITH THE NARRATIVE. The OPCW report of the alleged CW attack in Douma (used as the excuse for an attack by FUKUS – love that acronym!) says no nerve agent. MSM does its best (there are many traces of chlorine in your house) and the US State Department sticks to its line. Its newline that is: yesterday’s line was "Douma symptoms consistent with nerve agent: U.S. State Department".
UKRAINE. We’re now told that Ukrainian troops in Crimea were ordered to shoot and refused orders. As few in the West remember, most of them either joined the Russian Armed Forces or quit.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer