Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
THE STRUGGLE INTENSIFIES. Stalin: "because they are becoming weaker, they feel that their last days are approaching and are compelled to resist with all the forces and all the means in their power". Navalniy, Belarus, Kyrgyz Republic, Armenia-Azerbaijan and another treason arrest. Connected?
SYRIA. Fifth anniversary of Russia’s intervention. And successful it has been: a brilliant combination of judiciously applied force, good intelligence, diplomacy and cooperation. And a reminder that, historically, Russians have been pretty good at war. Shoygu sums it up. (Russians like numbers as much as McNamara did – 133K jihadists killed? Let’s just say lots.)
SUGGESTION. Putin suggested how to improve Russia-US relations including a formal undertaking not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs. VOA coverage sums up the Western (non) reaction. I assume Putin does these things, not because he expects an answer, but for the record and the outside audience.
CHEESE. Among the silliest things ever said about Russia was this by Masha Gessen (one of the silliest purveyor of silliness about Russia): What the Russians Crave: Cheese. Moscow countered the EU sanctions with a food ban; together with a well-planned program of subsidies and grants, it has effected a huge turnaround in Russia’s food production. In the 90s it was commonly thought that Russia imported half its food, today it is probably self-sufficient. And so with Gessen’s cheese: "it is the third largest producer of cheese after the European Union and the US.” Fancy cheeses too. Probably the ur-mistake of the so-called Western experts on Russia is their baked-in conviction that Russia is as they think it is and cannot, ever, change. This despite all the changes in the Putin Team era. But they’re paid to believe what they believe to be paid.
MEDIA. Speaking of "Russian experts”, RFE/RL six and a half years ago: "The 20 Russian News Outlets You Need To Read Before They Get The Ax". All still there except for No 7. Ah well, change the date and put it out again; no one will notice. Meanwhile, Twitter removes RIA Novosti. A Levada poll shows that, as elsewhere, Russians get less news from TV, newspapers and radio and more from the Net.
PEOPLE POWER. The protests in Khabarovsk continue. But very weird now: USSR flag, "Sacred War” and current address of the Antichrist. Pretty hard to fit all those into a coherent narrative.
WESTERN VALUES™. "If the necessary information is not provided, then targeted and proportionate sanctions against those responsible on the Russian side will be unavoidable.” So much for that sacred Western principle, Russia: if you don’t prove you didn’t do it, you’re guilty. "Freedom, democracy and the rule of law. These values are what define us.” Yeah, right.
AMERICA-HYSTERICA I. Trump says he has declassified everything. OK, let’s get on with it. But one has to ask if a tree falls in the forest and the NYT doesn’t report it, does it make a sound? Or are those who hear the sound debunked conspiracy theorists? And it’s probably too late anyway.
AMERICA-HYSTERICA II. Forget actual evidence: the less there is the more proof there is. "Especially clever is planting tales of supposedly far-reaching influence operations that either don’t actually exist or are having little impact.” WaPo of course.
OOPS! A Ukrainian TV poll on whether Putin should get the Nobel Peace prize: 76% said yes.
EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Some more steps along an uncertain path. It is principally the relationship with Russia that is the driver (although China and the Muslim lands are factors too). Whatever may have been the case on the past, I don’t see that Europe gets much out of its subservience to Washington these days. But the separation will be slow and painful. I suspect Trump may be pushing it. (Gordian Knot 3).
TROUBLE IN PARADISE. In the early cargo-cult phase of EU/NATO aspirations, no one considered the full package. To a large extent the promised riches have been elusive but the globalist "human rights” package has not. I am amused to see that Budapest and Warsaw, targets both, have decided to fight back. What does this have to do with Russia? Well, Russia is the poster-child of a Westphalian world of independent sovereign states while Brussels is the poster-child of the globalist, one-size-fits-all world. Another tiny step.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer