Patrick Armstrong was an analyst in the Canadian Department of National Defence specialising in the USSR/Russia from 1984 and a Counsellor in the Canadian Embassy in Moscow in 1993-1996.
PUTIN. Putin celebrated his 69th birthday on Thursday and Levada published a poll. (Googlish) He remains popular: about two thirds like him. Which is only slightly different from the score in 2000. A stunning performance, almost unequalled in modern history. But what of the future? Overall 47% would like him to be President for another term and 42% not. What is interesting about that number was that, in 2012, it was 40% against and 35% for. (For what it’s worth, about then I thought he would not run again but theorised that Libya convinced him that he had to stay on because the world was becoming more dangerous). Anyway, as the chart shows, he bounced back. This Levada poll shows that that there is a clear age difference. While the over-55s favour another term, a slight majority of those under 40 do not: and nearly a third of them think there’s a cult of personality about him. Everybody reaches his "best before” date and the wise leader gets out before then. I believe Putin is a wise man and therefore I think we will see him not run again. His auctoritas is strong enough that he can name a successor. But I doubt we’ll know who until he tells us: he runs a pretty leak-free operation. Non-committal too.
US-RUSSIA TALKS. Victoria Nuland, who believes Russia needs a stern talking to, was in Moscow for talks. Ukraine was on the agenda but Moscow’s position is set in Medvedev’s article: "There are no fools to fight for Ukraine. And it’s useless to talk to the vassal, we must talk to the suzerain.” There is a demented notion among some of the the neo-connerie that Washington can do another Kissinger and separate Moscow and Beijing. Perhaps her visit is an attempt to do that. It would be good, though, if they could – as Moscow has proposed – stop sanctioning each other’s diplomats. It appears that little useful resulted – the Russian side complained that it was the usual list of demands – but talk is always better.
EUROPEAN POWER TROUBLES. Not enough wind, cold winter used up reserves, decision to go to spot price buying rather than the long-term fixed-price contracts the Russians prefer (like the one Budapest has just signed). Nordstream delays haven’t helped either. Nothing to do with Moscow as Merkel has admitted – it’s a Euro own goal. Putin has said several times that Russia will supply what is needed; not charity, of course, but not leaving them to contemplate reality while wearing fourteen sweaters either. But he also said that the poor maintenance of the Ukrainian pipe lines means that not much can be shipped through them. Meanwhile, the shriekers shriek.
GUNS. The Navy announced a successful test firing of a Tsirkon hypersonic missile from a surfaced submarine followed shortly after by a submerged launch. It is a missile that travels at Mach 8 or 9, a range of 1000-2000 kms, warhead 300-400 kgs, manoeuvrable in flight, tested from air, land, surface ship and now submarine. Pretty formidable weapon.
BUTTER. Foreign reserves worth 618 billion USD. About a quarter in gold. All-time high.
BELLINGCAT. The Justice Ministry has added Bellingcat and MNews to the registry of media acting as foreign agents. I haven’t run across mnews.world but here’s all you need to know about Bellingcat.
CORRUPTION. A whistleblower has revealed videos of torture at a prison hospital in Saratov Region; the director of federal prison services fired four officers including the one the whistleblower says was the chief perpetrator. Further investigations are underway.
NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. Maybe, at last, the idiocy limit has been discovered.
CIA CRI DU COEUR. According to the NYT, CIA HQ has sent a "top secret” (and how would the NYT know if it really were TS? Mysteries do abound, don’t they?) message to its stations saying too many of its agents have been revealed. Bernhard speculates that it may be connected to an arrest in Russia. Larry Johnson says CIA’s tradecraft has always been sloppy. A curious report, altogether.
SAAKASHVILI. Returned to Georgia and arrested; announced a hunger strike; in terrible shape says his doctor. Georgian Dream leader says he was attempting a coup and PM Garibashvili says it was to be violent. In local elections the next day Georgian Dream won comfortably but Saakashvili’s party ran second. I guess this is the end of that particular "colour revolution”. Hard to tell whether anybody much cares about him now: he’s certainly time-expired. (And the story gets weirder.)
NOT ON YOUR "NEWS” OUTLET. The principal opposition leader in Ukraine had had his house arrest extended and will be charged with terrorism.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer