THE GREAT RESHUFFLE. I do expect Putin to retire and assume him to be working on a succession plan to keep the team's aims in operation. He's due to go in about four years. I would not be surprised if we see something à la Kazakhstan where Nazarbayev still has a significant advisory authority.
2. CONSTITUTION. Putin suggested constitutional tweaks. A ban on any form of dual citizenship for certain positions: they must "inseparably connect their lives with Russia and the Russian people without any assumptions and allowances". The Duma should appoint the PM and the PM the government although little was said about exactly how responsibilities were to be divvied up. (Did he support removing the two consecutive term rule? Don't know – depends on what you think "этим" refers to.)
3. PRECEDENCE. Back when the world was simpler and happier and Russians naïve, the Constitution (Art 15.4) said "If an international treaty of the Russian Federation establishes rules other than those stipulated by the law, the rules of the international treaty apply." Brutal reality has taught Moscow the true nature of the "Rules-Based International Order" and Putin has proposed to reverse the authority.
4. MEDVEDEV. Deputy Chairman of the Security Council. I think it's a real job and not a sinecure.
WHAT'S IT MEAN? My take. Doctorow. MacDonald. We are broadly in step. Robinson discusses possibilities. Those who see Russia as one man and many robots of course see this as Putin hanging onto power forever. But their predictive track record is pretty pathetic, isn't it?
FEDERAL ASSEMBLY ADDRESS. In addition to the constitutional matters above, Putin's address (Rus) (Eng), touched on other subjects. He began with population – the births per woman were 1.5 and he wants to raise that to 1.7 and proposes more day care places and greatly extending existing financial support programs as well as spending to improve healthcare. All this is possible because "The federal budget has had a surplus again" and inflation is low. (Robinson points out, quite correctly, that there's a gap between what The Boss decrees and what actually happens. Nonetheless I'd say Putin has been much more successful than most leaders.) Foreign matters received the barest mention: situation in MENA threatening, Russia ready to cooperate, "defence capability is ensured for decades to come".
RUSSIA INC. Awara does a study of Russian and American earnings and demonstrates that, in purchasing power, they're a lot closer than you would think. It's not just money: health, housing and education – big expenses in the USA – are negligible in Russia.
CORRUPTION. After an investigation, the Russian Academy of Sciences has forced the retraction of hundreds of scientific articles for plagiarism and other forms of fraudulent behaviour.
RUSSIA, SPORTS AND DRUGS. It's all fakery – Mark Chapman takes the trouble to put it all together.
USN ALWAYS HAS RoW. Again the US accuses the Russian Navy of dangerous behaviour, again it was the USN ship that should have given way. (Give way to starboard vessel.) Speaking of rules-based.
IRAQ. It is reported that that Baghdad is in talks with Moscow on buying S-300 SAM systems. Baghdad orders Americans out; they refuse; Baghdad might need air defence that's independent of US backdoor programming.
NOT IN YOUR "NEWS" OUTLET. Helmer discusses a German parliamentary report that shows that there really isn't any evidence that Russia "invaded" Ukraine or controls the rebels: "few reliable facts and analyses aside from the numerous speculations". It calls it a "civil war" (bürgerkriegs). Which is what it actually is (with assistance from NATO and Russia, to be sure). (Report, German only).
TROUBLE IN PARADISE. A contested presidential election led to pretty strong protests with the Supreme Court changing its ruling. The long and the short is that Raul Khajimba, an important player and President for six years, resigned on Monday. New elections will be held in March. Independent Abkhazia has not been very stable and I don't have any good sources to guide me on what's happening. Although I have been told it is determined on real independence, joining neither Russia nor Georgia.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer