Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
HEALTH. Paul Robinson reads junk so that I don’t have to: a book by some academic explaining why so many Russians (wrongly – of course!) support the horrible Putin. Well, only a tenured intullekchul couldn’t figure it out. (I can never forget Orwell’s "There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.") Here’s two (more) reasons why so many Russian have liked and trusted Putin & Co for so long. An excellent report from Awara on Russian longevity. "In 2000, the difference in life expectancy between the two countries [USA and Russia] was 11.1 years or 14.5% in favor of the US. But by 2019, the difference had shrunk to only 4.8 years or 6.1% ". As it were, 20 years of Putin & Co cost his voters only 12! Suicides, homicides and infant mortality are also way down: a third or less of what they were in 2000. Boozing has dramatically decreased – a WHO report says down by 43%. Excessive drinking – especially binge drinking – was a weighty contributor to low life expectancies, suicide, homicide and infant mortality. The health system is improving hugely and Russians no longer have to drink their way through the Time of Stagnation and the misery and hopelessness of the 1990s. Many causes, certainly, but no one (except silly intullekchuls) could deny Putin and his team a lot of the credit. If you were a Russian, you’d support them too (well, maybe not if there’s enough American money – Navalniy’s operation just declared a foreign agent, BTW.) Putin and his team are doing what people hire governments to do. (I leave the reader to contemplate his own government’s achievements. Russia’s curves are all going up; ours are all going down. What will we see in another 20 years? And that’s not even mentioning China. For the West it looks bad. We want to start hoping that they – and Iran – are magnanimous in victory.)
VISAS. Quick internet visas for St Petersburg are now being issued; the plan is that this will spread to the rest of Russia next year. Apparently the happy experience with the World Cup was the inspiration. The government is pushing tourism and I would expect it to grow significantly. Russian "soft power” is pretty inept but maybe they’re starting to figure it out: the experience of most visitors is that Russia "shows well”. For those of us in the "Five Eyes” the tiresome old procedure will remain.
SANCTIONS. US foreign policy today seems to be threats, bombs and sanctions. A GAO report declines to judge whether sanctions (20 countries!) are effective. (Are the other two effective?).
REMEMBER when they used to say once KGB always KGB? Does that also apply to former members of organs of state security who are now all over US TV as "independent experts”?
THE EMPTINESS OF FORMER FLAPS I. Years ago the anti-Russia mob were telling us that Moscow was doing something nefarious about Caspian Sea boundaries. I predicted the ultimate answer would be Baku’s and so, grosso modo, it has proved to be. The seabed is divided by the five. Putin just ratified it.
THE EMPTINESS OF FORMER FLAPS II. Remember the Russian submarine in Sweden in 2014? Well, not Russian: a "Swedish object”? It was pushed to boost defence spending. You’ll be glad to know Swedish state TV launched a campaign against fake news spread, apparently, only by Trumputin.
PROTESTS. Still believe they’re real? Read this.
UKRAINE. After his disappointing meeting with Trump ("I really hope that you and President Putin get together"), Zelensky went home and signed on to the "Steinmeier Formula". Which is really just a way of getting Kiev to do what it is already supposed to do in the Minsk agreements. Protests began immediately. Zelensky is in a difficult position: the plutocrats – who have the money – like to keep Ukraine lawless so they can steal more; the nazis – who have the guns – ditto; Trump doesn’t care and Europe is sick and tired of the mess. I reiterate that, at the end, I expect Ukraine to be much smaller.
WHERE DID IT GO? According to the head of Ukraine’s Central Bank, there is almost no gold left.
MH17. This could become interesting: Netherlands MPs demand investigation into Ukraine’s role. Do you think Zelensky might be tempted to blame his predecessors for that and the Maidan shooting?
SYRIA. US withdrawal? Or just rearrangement? Ankara’s actions and intentions? Where’s Russia in all this? The US war party is melting down. The Kurds will probably have to to make a deal with Damascus.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer