PUTIN'S PRIORITIES. For those who think Putin dreams every night of conquering Estonia or re-creating the Empire, here's his actual todo list: population growth; life expectancy; real wage growth; reduce poverty; housing; technology; economic growth; high-productivity export-oriented businesses. What Moscow wants is a quiet life to get on with making things better in Russia for Russians.
FOREIGN POLICY PRIORITIES. There is a certain amount of talk that Russia has "betrayed" Syria (or Donbass) or "backed down" or something. Apparently it should have turned on its military power and kept it going full throttle until victory. I believe this greatly oversimplifies reality; even childishly so. Moscow's most important foreign policy priority is the preservation of Russia. In the face of Washington's multi-faceted war against it, this is no easy task. While Russia is doing pretty well, one cannot forget the reality that Washington and its minions, while fading, still possess immense destructive military, financial and economic power. Therefore, prudence is essential. A direct shooting war would be disastrous for all; something that Moscow has little confidence that Washington understands. Moscow works to strengthen the multilateral system partly for its own sake (it knows the cost of "exceptionalism") and partly as a countermove to Washington's schemes. Moscow believes that the US in its self-appointed role as "upholder and defender of the liberal world order" aka "rules-based order" has an inbuilt tendency to produce chaos and destruction. It has come to this point of view by observation, not by because it's innately "hostile" or "predatory" or "malign". It didn't start out that way; here's a reminder of what Putin once expected from the USA. This entails a continual effort to balance competing powers – not too much of this, not too much of that – in order to preserve a tenuous peace (we see this especially in the Middle East today). The Soviets had an concept: "the correlation of forces" – the attempt to take everything that could affect an outcome into consideration; you may be sure that Putin's team is continually assessing it. To remind you of what he sees as his job: "I'm not your friend, I'm the President of Russia".
CHURCH RESTORATION. When I was in Russia 20 years ago churches were being renovated everywhere. This shows some of the more dramatic restorations.
KERCH BRIDGE. Putin formally opened the road part. The "country that doesn't make anything" has completed the longest bridge in Europe in two years. Newsweek, NYT and the Atlantic Council assure us it will fail and some random neocon wants Kiev to destroy it. Moscow has already thought of that.
MEDITERRANEAN. Always, Putin says, there will be Kalibrs there. Newton's Third Law.
PUTIN'S NEW WHEELS. Revealed at his inauguration last Monday. There will be other high-end luxury models. I can see them selling: twenty years of unrelenting hostility has (surprise!) made Russians more patriotic and it may become a fad for the rich to ditch their Mercs for "patriotic" cars.
AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Mueller's grand indictment of miscellaneous Russian entities for interference (probably actually a commercial marketing scheme) was flimflam designed to keep the story going and he surely never expected to have to prove it. Well he has to: the catering company has produced lawyers and is demanding its day in court. And discovery. This should be a good laugh. Flynn's sentencing for "lying" has been again postponed. And his Manafort case isn't going well either. There's no there there.
NEW NWO. Trump walks out of the JCPOA, scorning Europe's pleas. Sanctions will follow and Washington will demand compliance from Europe ("secondary sanctions"). Will Europe knuckle under? Juncker, Merkel and Tusk talk tough but always before tough talk has preceded obedience: Washington's sanctions on Russia have cost Europe a lot but it still dutifully signs up for more. But maybe (maybe) Washington has gone too far this time: we have a report that sanctions will be defied and US court rulings will be ignored. Brzezinski observed that for American global dominance "the most dangerous scenario" would be a grand "antihegemonic" coalition of Russia, China and Iran. He was confident it could be averted by a "a display of US geostrategic skill". (!) His head would explode imagining a Russia-EU-China-Iran coalition.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer