Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
PARIS MEETING. It happened but nothing much happened. Agreed to a ceasefire and to uphold Minsk. But Zelensky can’t deliver: the Ukronazis amuse themselves by popping off rounds into towns in Donbass and Kiev refuses to take the next step: local elections in the rebel areas (Number 4). Nothing suggests that Macron pushed anything, although Zelensky wasn’t able to make Number 9 into the next step. The EU extended sanctions; they include a demand for the "complete implementation of the Minsk agreements". If Macron had been serious about bettering EU-Russia relations, he would have had his representative object because Russia has no obligations under Minsk; if he didn’t already know that, he learned it at the meeting. So, thus far, no evidence that his actions comport with his words.
SHADOW ECONOMY. I had thought that the imposition of the flat income tax rate of 13% in 2001 had pretty well eliminated the problem of the "grey economy”. But a recent study, comparing statistics on taxpayers against the number working, suggests that the "shadow economy” might be as high as 18% of the total workforce. I’m not convinced by that number: some people make too little to pay tax; added to which, given that there are proposals to raise the level from 13%, this study may be part of that discussion because it says that, were the non-payers to be captured, the tax rate could be cut to 11%. So that number might too high but it’s something to keep an eye on.
LUZHKOV. Yuriy Luzhkov died last week. Long-time mayor of Moscow, he was fired in 2010. I remember the moment when, as it were, Moscow city began to turn around. There was a garbage skip on the little street where the Canadian Embassy was. It would fill up, keep filling, overflow, fill up some more, overflow again. One day, early in 1994, it was emptied and thereafter was regularly emptied. Say what you like about him and his wife dipping their beaks, but he got stuff done.
INF. Washington has killed the INF Treaty which prohibited intermediate range missiles in Europe. Foreign Minister Lavrov says Moscow will never be the first to deploy them in Europe. If the US did deploy them (their last attempt sparked huge protests) Moscow can have them there the next day.
CORRUPTION. Aleksey Kuznetsov, who was Moscow Region finance minister 2000-2008, was sentenced to 14 years for fraud and theft. He had fled the country but was extradited from France.
UK ELECTION. The craziness has hit there. Johnson is a Russian stooge; Russia has won the election; Fusion GPS (!!) tells us the UK needs a Mueller report.
SKIPALMANIA. "Ex-MP NORMAN BAKER is certain Russia has killed many people on British soil… but he believes we’ve been fed a pack of lies over the Salisbury poisonings". Say what you like about the DM, but occasionally it veers away from the-re-type-what-you’re-handed mode. (PS Mr Baker, you’re late to the party – you’re just repeating Rob Slane – but welcome. BTW if they’re lying to you now, what makes you so sure they weren’t then too?) Skripal has phoned Russia three times – surreptitiously?
AMERICA-HYSTERICA. "Pentagon Concerned Russia Cultivating Sympathy Among US Troops". Too stupid to waste a sneer at.
EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Erdoğan threatens to close the two US bases in Turkey if Washington goes ahead with sanctions. A YouGov poll finds that a majority of Germans are in favour of reducing reliance on US (55%) and increasing ties with Russia (54%). NATO’s biggest problems are internal cohesion. Germany rejects Washington sanctions on NordStream2. Der Spiegel defies Browder.
BAD DAYS FOR LIARS. Afghanistan war lies. Browder. Media lied about "Russiagate”; so did Schiff. And Comey. And of course, all the lies revealed by the IG: and that was just the FBI part of it. More from OPCW. All helping to make the idea of war with Russia more acceptable.
UKRAINE. One of Kiev’s biggest supporters reiterates his advice that Kiev should let the Donbass go: too expensive to fix and they don’t want to be in Ukraine anyway. All true enough but it’s noteworthy that neither now, nor three years ago, does he mention Crimea. But the same arguments apply, don’t they? And probably in Mariupol, Odessa, Transcarpathia and…
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer