Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
KREMLINOLOGY. I’ve been at this business for a while and one of the things I’ve learned is that "Kremlinology” is a waste of time: speculating about who’s who and the meaning of personnel appointments is worthless. Why? Because we simply don’t know: we don’t know why X was given that particular job and not another, we don’t know how X and Y get along together and how they interact with Z. In fact we really don’t know very much about X, what he thinks, why he thinks it and how he reacts to new things. It’s all a black box: we see some of what goes in and what comes out and have little idea of what happened inside the box. (We don’t know these things about our own countries – was Freeland promoted or demoted? – so what makes anyone think that we know these things about far-away Russia?) So it’s hardly surprising that Kremlinology has been a complete bust – every move, including Putin’s latest, surprises its practitioners. So I don’t waste my time speculating: I don’t know enough; nobody does. (The only worthwhile legacy of years of wasted effort is the HAT.)
NEW GOVERNMENT. That having been said, the new government seems to have a lot of ministers who are specialists in their ministry’s field. We’ll see how that goes. MacDonald gives names and backgrounds, Saker says the "Atlantic Integrationists” are weakened, Doctorow suggests it’s connected with the feeble implementation of the National Projects. I say it’s a step towards The Team’s replacement with younger people who will carry the project on. I still expect that Putin will leave with a successor firmly positioned. Tennison, who met him way back when, thinks so too.
CONSTITUTION. Robinson doesn’t see such a huge change. The usual outlets say Putin forever! (Can we pause a moment for a brief think? If he wanted power forever, all he had to do was drop clause 81.3. Nah, turn off brain and outgas: "some” "reportedly” and so on.) The other thing that we have learned is that Putin wants to make the two term restriction absolute.
DEMOGRAPHICS. A fall in the net population (immigration failed to compensate) because of the decrease in the number of women of reproductive age (fallout from the hard times of the 1990s.) Natural increase is expected to resume in three or four years. This month Putin announced a substantial increase in programs to encourage births and support families.
SANCTIONS. Russia now exports beef. (!)
ANNIVERSARY. Saturday, as I calculate it, marked the day when the US and its minions had been in Afghanistan twice as long as the Soviets were. Record year for bombing, too.
AMERICA-HYSTERICA. "There is … a strong possibility that all Steele’s material has been fabricated.” I always thought it was a complete fake with no Russian input (except maybe Skripal’s). I reiterate: there was no Russian interference and no collusion. It’s a phoney story to explain away Clinton’s failure.
NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. Schiff: Trump made a ‘religious man’ out of Putin. Pillow man, another of Schiff’s nuggets. Reflect that his present career is based on his "knowledge” of Putin.
US DOLLAR. I’m interested that The Economist gets it (as the Mean Sea Level of conventional opinion, what it chooses to cover is significant): "But it is only under President Donald Trump that America has used its powers routinely and to their full extent, by engaging in financial warfare… They have in turn prompted other countries to seek to break free of American financial hegemony.” If it’s used as a weapon, it’s no longer convenient. This man predicts the collapse of the USD this year. Russia has half a trillion’s worth in its FOREX and gold kitty.
RUSSIA/CHINA. Donald Trump must split up Putin and Xi, the new odd couple. Not only does the author not realise that train left the station a long time ago, he’s not even sure where the station is.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer