LOST OPPORTUNITY. Karlin reminds us that once the USA was extremely popular in Russia. In the early 90s a high of 80% felt good about the USA. 35% then thought the US was friendly and 3% thought it hostile: today it's 3% and 59% respectively. I'm sure someone will blame Putin for the reversal.
SECURITY. The FSB Director tells us in his annual roundup that 120 foreign and international NGOs, covertly used as tools of foreign intelligence, were stopped and 137 agents of foreign special services were uncovered. 23 terrorist attacks were prevented.
CORRUPTION. The former Economic Development Minister was found guilty of accepting bribes and sentenced to 8 years in a penal colony and a fine of 130 million rubles.
POVERTY. The Labour Minister tells us that about 13% of population lives below the poverty line. Putin has raised the minimum wage and, beginning in 2019, it will be set to the "employable population’s subsistence level for Russia as a whole for the second quarter of the previous year".
COMMUNISTS. The Russian Communist Party (the real opposition in terms of votes, policies and seats) has nominated the head of the Lenin State Farm, Pavel Grudinin, as its presidential candidate. Although not an actual CP member, he runs a successful farm in Moscow on socialist principles. (Google Maps). He may bring in more votes than the charisma-free Zyuganov did in numerous previous runs.
ELECTION. I quote Karlin a lot because he is, in my opinion, one of the best of the best observers on Russia and has the advantage of having lived both here and there. I recommend his discussion of the function of elections in a country when everybody knows the super popular President and his pedestal party will be re-elected. He argues that the political leadership wants to own the broad centre of opinion; the performance of parties on the wings allow course corrections. A species of demos-kratia isn't it?
DEPT OF IRONY. "UK turns to Russian project targeted by sanctions for gas supply".
TARTUS. I was scornful of earlier Western excitement over the "naval base in Syria" which was not a huge facility but just a corner of a small port used as a rest stop. But it will become bigger: Putin just signed the law. Described as a "inventory and logistics support centre" the lease is for 49 years. This will allow the Russian Navy to have a permanent Mediterranean presence. (A tiny voice asks whether Moscow is becoming tempted by its success – does it really need bases here and there? Is that really in its national interest?)
SYRIA WRAPUP. 34 thousand sorties and 215 new weapons systems tested and lots of experience. They say (but the claimed precision is preposterous) 60,318 terrorists killed, 2840 of them Russian-born.
SYRIA. There is still a US military base in Syria, the Russian CGS says it is fully blocked by the Syrian army. Again we wonder who's in charge? Washington has lost in Syria and it's time to leave. But it doesn't: still stories of "moderate rebels" being trained; still stories of Daesh fighters being protected. A much better informed observer than I has a theory: two delegators in the chain create confusion.
AMERICA-HYSTERICA. CNNoids were no doubt shocked or puzzled by this: "Trump is right about the FBI"; video). The London Review of Books unveiled a bit (but not much: the piece could have been written a year ago). "Was the Steele Dossier the FBI’s ‘Insurance Policy’?" moves closer. Even the WaPo starts to doubt. Stay tuned: a big document dump is coming.
TRUMPOLOGY. I put this theory out there for your consideration: "Trump Cuts the Gordian Knot of Foreign Entanglements". Andrew Korybko has something similar here. Certainly plenty of people are saying that he is "isolating" the USA; but they assume it's because he is "incompetent", Korybko and I think he's doing it on purpose. (Trump's alleged incompetence is a prime pillar of the Russia interference panic: for the believers, no one so "dangerously incompetent", unqualified or mentally ill could have beaten the "most qualified presidential candidate in history" on his own.)
POLAND-UKRAINE. Poland, which had something to do with encouraging and assisting the Maidan coup, is increasingly concerned about what it helped stirred up. A lot of Poles were murdered by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army which is much loved by today's Kiev. A monument to the Volyn massacre is under construction: it shows a baby impaled on a trident. See also the recent movie. History has not stopped in that part of the world.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer