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SYRIA. The US is leaving. Here's Trump (his saying ISIS is defeated is flim flam; he would remember the saying about Vietnam: "declare victory and leave"). Lots of speculation why and what: here's the best I've seen so far. Everyone who hates Trump hates it: I look forward to pink pussy hat protesters. Will we have a sudden "Assad gases children" false flag? Will the borg just disobey him? Wait and see. But this is one of the reasons people voted for him: these wars do not "make America great".

PUTIN PRESSER. Quick summary. I'll cover it next Sitrep if I think he's said anything new.

TODAY'S AMUSEMENT. "US Coast Guard Turns Down Arctic Exercise Because 40-year-old Icebreaker Might Break Down And Would Require Russian Help". "The country that doesn't make anything" has the two most powerful icebreakers in existence. You can cruise on one of them.

SOLZHENITSYN. Putin attended the unveiling of a statue on the centenary of his birth and met with his widow in the Kremlin. I repeat, for those who think Putin worships Stalin or something, that excerpts from the Gulag Archipelago are required reading in Russian schools. (The NYT has a poor memory.)

STUNT OR REMINDER? Two White Swans visited Venezuela. Prompting this nugget from the stupidity mine: "The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.”

GUNS. SIPRI reports that Russia is the second biggest arms exporter in 2017 (USA first at five times as much). Of course, apart from other things, Syria has proved to be a great showcase and test bed.

SANCTIONS. The US Treasury has announced that it has dropped its sanctions against RusAl (the second largest aluminum company) but will keep them against its – what now? former owner? absentee owner? Meanwhile more sanctions against some other Russian entities for some imagined involvement in some imagined crime.

WESTERN VALUES™. Months of solitary confinement, threats and emptied wallet and Maria Butina takes a plea deal. As Beria is said to have said "give me the man and I will give you the crime".

THE EMPTINESS OF FORMER FLAPS. Murdered by Kremlin!!!! Oops, natural causes. Reminiscent of the death of Badri Patarkatsishvili in 2008: another enemy of Putin dies; oops, Saakashvili’s enemy. (Meanwhile, in Georgia, a recording has appeared of Saakashvili ordering his death).

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. There's a plan to strengthen the Euro's international role. Merkel criticised Trump for "populism" and similar doubleplusungood things. The EU foreign policy chief says shortcomings of the IMF Treaty are no reason to scrap it. But, obediently the European Parliament praises Ukraine, condemns Russia and calls for stopping Nord Stream. (Germany will ignore the last). And it extended sanctions on Russia because of "zero progress in implementation of Minsk agreements". Moscow has no obligations under the agreement but that fact has never stopped them before. So baby steps away from Daddy, big steps back.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Some developments. The reporter who first spread the Dossier story now doubts it. Google CEA says "Russians" spent less than $5000. Nate Silver doubts there was much effect. The so called influence campaign was really a click-bait scheme to sucker advertisers. But it rolls on. For your amusement, a mash-up of how Trump is finished!!!!

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. MoA lists all the things Putin has "weaponised". But don't dare laugh: the BBC solemnly informs us he's weaponised humour. A US comic book has him as villain and a super hero whose sister was gassed "by Assad, the Russians' puppet". London Times: "Russian accounts fuel French outrage online". Paris is investigating. And why not blame Russia? Everybody in the EU is as happy as happy can be, only the malign efforts of wicked Moscow could make them think they weren't. McCarthyism wasn't as crackbrained as this.

POLAND. The LNG deal is signed. 20 years FOB at Texas. This can't be cheaper than Russian gas.

UKRAINE. "Israel's ambassador to Kiev 'shocked' after seeing that a region in Ukraine honors Nazi collaborator Bandera". He just noticed? Not just a region. A parliamentarian says the EU cheated them. It is not inconceivable that the election, if Poroshenko can't finagle his way out of it, may bring some change. The new president can blame the old and it will be a re-arrangement of the deckchairs and who knows what will happen in such an unhappy and unstable country? If Poroshenko orders an attack the certain defeat will stir more up. But change is more likely worse than better.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

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