VICTORY! I've been waiting a decade for Washington to explain that the Ossetia war was actually a triumph for it. And here it is at last. American efforts resulted in "the Russians withdrawing to their start positions." Well, they never intended to occupy Georgia. The same official then creatively blames Assad for "producing" ISIS. A complete echo chamber of delusion.
SANCTIONS. Bloomberg calculates that the Russian economy is about 10% smaller than it forecasted it would be in 2013. It reckons that about six percentage points of the decrease are due to Western sanctions and the rest to other factors. In short, sanctions have hurt but not as much as all that. I have long believed that this is transitory pain which will pay off later. For example, the increase in Russian food production has been remarkable. It would be interesting to see Bloomberg do an estimate for the cost to the EU: plenty of estimates out there, some as high as €100 billion. The point is that Russia wasn't such a big market for the EU, but it was one of the few that was growing.
CORRUPTION. We are told that 300 police officers have been fired this year after complaints from citizens. There were 45,000 complaints. VTsIOM reports that trust in the police has dropped ten points since last year's all-time high of 67%. Better than the old days when trust was under 50%; so, more work to be done, but work is being done. Corruption is a tricky subject, often treated too simply, I believe.
WAR. A recent report comes as close as we will ever see to an admission that the USA would lose a war with either Russian or China on their home turf. This comes on the heels of a report showing that a large number of key defence components manufacturers are not secure and an earlier one that said many US weapons systems are vulnerable to hacking. These are consequences of endless wars in MENA, twenty years of poking Russia and China and unilateralism. Surely the rational conclusion would be that Washington should start rethinking things from the bottom up. Nope, more of the same is the answer: "The report also called for an expansion of the current $716 billion defense budget."
THE LATEST. "GPS glitches during NATO’s largest war games in decades blamed on (DRUM ROLL) Russia". Maybe. Russia is preparing for a war and, without GPS, NATO ground and air forces would be pretty helpless. So maybe a teeny tiny test to see if jammers worked. On the other hand, excuses are cheap and the exercise was not a very happy experience for Norway.
WESTERN VALUES™. Over the years I have grown drearily accustomed to human rights organisations being co-opted – weaponised is the fashionable word – by the Western war party (MSF, Pussy Riot and the rest) and have pretty well given up on them. But, a ray of light appears. Amnesty International is active in reporting the destruction of Raqqa by the US coalition. It is starting a project to record the destruction: what they have collected so far on "the most destroyed city in modern times" is at strike-tracker. So the next time the White Helmets or Bellingcat tells you of some Russian atrocity, remember that it would be impossible to be more indiscriminately destructive than US/NATO "targeted actions".
US ELECTIONS. Did Putin fix them? If so how? Why did he want Trump's party to lose the House? If he didn't, why didn't he? I look forward to the NYT explaining how this fits into Operation Infektion.
NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. Masha and the Bear. "Putin’s tanks are hidden in Masha’s backpack". DM readers treat this with the scorn it deserves. A friend suggested setting up a mock conference to make deadpan over-the-top claims to ridicule Russophobia. I don't think you can ridicule people who believe in Masha's armoured backpack and Medvedev's pillow carrier.
EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Some more straws in the wind. Madrid has allowed 3 Russian warships to resupply at Cueta, the first time in 3 years. A minister says Paris will lead EU efforts to create a payment mechanism to keep trade with Iran. And TurkStream marks another milestone.
UKRAINE. Remember when Ukrainian nazis were just Putin propaganda? US News, Daily Beast, AIM, Fox, and plenty more assured us (BBC here) that reports of nazis in Ukraine were only troll factory output. Now, for some reason, the Western media is noticing: New Republic, CBS, AP, Max Blumenthal. Even the US propaganda outlet RFE/RL tells us: "Azov, Ukraine's Most Prominent Ultranationalist Group, Sets Its Sights On U.S., Europe." And chickens are arriving home as this Criminal Complaint shows. Why they notice today what was perfectly obvious then, I cannot tell you.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer