PUTIN DIRECT LINE. (Eng) (Rus) Deep in the weeds, this one: trash (apparently piling up since Soviet times), healthcare, maternity and child care issues, farming, corruption (declining said Putin, it's the inevitability of punishment that matters), over-zealous inspectors, protecting Russia's electronic/internet/cyberspace against attacks (several mentions of Washington's attacks on Huawei), air routes, water supply. "Russia's greatest problem" was to secure "higher labour efficiency". Little on foreign issues other than that Putin & Co stand ready to talk (but I get the impression that they don't expect they'll get much chance to). Sanctions had led to substitution: "Look, if ten years ago I… had been told that we would be exporting agricultural products worth $25.7 billion, like we did last year, I would have laughed… " Suppose Russia gives in? he doubted sanctions would ever stop – Huawei again. Why is he polite to those "slinging mud at us"? he was brought up that way and rudeness isn't useful in negotiations. And we learned a reason why he does these things; "a direct line that is intended to bring the bottlenecks into focus and to find solutions to these problems". A theme this year was how orders from the centre often aren't fulfilled on the ground. He and the producers observed that "Problems end as soon as Direct Line starts". I re-read one of his earlier ones (from 2002) and I would say that today's concerns are smaller, they're more about the uneven implementation of strategic plans or fine tuning some strategy than the need for big solutions for big problems. Which is a sign, of course, of how far things have improved since then. (In those days, Russia was finished.) See below.
STATISTICS. I saw these numbers the other day. Life expectancy steadily climbing. Meat consumption up. Murders down. All reasons why Russians generally believe that Putin & Co are getting the job done. (And, it should always be remembered, half of those who don't like him, don't because he hasn't occupied Ukraine or bombed Tbilisi into obedience. Russian exceptionalists, so to speak.)
PEOPLE POWER. The Boss' advice was taken: referendum, strong opposition discovered, church cancelled. But the Boss' opinion should not have been sought. And, as we see every year in Direct Line, there are still too many people asking Batyushka to fix their roof.
FLOATING NPP. Approved for operation. It is to be towed to isolated places in the Russian north to provide power. Causing, no doubt, more blather like this or this about Russia taking over the Arctic.
MH17. More unsupported allegations from JIT (note that Bellingcat seems to be the source.) Malaysia PM Mahathir (correctly) remains sceptical: "Even before they examined the case, they have already claimed it was done by Russia". As do I (the port air engine intake is an important clue). BTW, what happened to the last "conclusive proof" out of JIT… attentive people remember.
TRUE? FALSE? Who knows? it's the NYT after all. "U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid". Does that sound like a good idea to you? Anyway, it shows that pieces like this from 2017 were projection. All this provocation, baiting and risk because of… see below.
AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Not only did the FBI never examine the DNC's servers but it never saw an un-redacted final copy of the Crowdstrike report accusing Russia of hacking them. It's all assertion by interested parties. The interference meme is nonsense too – read this.
GEORGIA. The Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy meets in Tbilisi; the President, a Russian, gives a speech in Russian. This leads to riots. At the same time Washington and its minions are pushing for a Gay Pride march in a country where there isn't much support for such things. Washington is apparently deeply concerned about this in Georgia but not elsewhere. I agree with Jatras that it sounds like an attempt at a coloured revolution: protesters with signs in foreign languages are hardly grassroots (Russian in Latin script!!??). Moscow has banned flights to Georgia and blocked Georgian airlines: this will hurt their tourism revenue. Remittances are a significant part of Georgia's economy and Russia is the largest source so blocking those may be next on the list. (Worked with Turkey, didn't it?)
UKRAINE. Poroshenko's new church is de-laminating in fights over money.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer