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PUTIN SPEECH. (Eng) (Rus) As I concluded from reading his 1999 essay, Putin at the beginning had four broad intentions: to reverse economic decline, to re-establish central authority, to create a rule of law (or at least a rule of rules) and to make Russia count for something in the world. In 1999 I think he expected goodwill or at least benign indifference from the West. But, as time passed, he came to realise that that was not going to happen because the background rulers of Washington (pick a name: deep state/borg/blob/neocons/exceptionalists/war party) would never permit Russia to rise. The destruction of Libya was the event, I believe, that finally convinced him that the West could not be trusted, that no lasting agreements could be made with it and that its present power must be endured. But, I believe he also understood that hubris would bring its downfall; Russia had to survive through the dangerous times until the inevitable nemesis. (Beijing ditto in its own way, in its own time). Painful, frightening, difficult, dangerous but, with the right preparations, survivable. This necessitated a change of emphasis: as he said at the beginning of the foreign policy/defence part of his speech "Russia has been and always will be a sovereign and independent state. This is a given. It will either be that, or will simply cease to exist". In short, he (and his team – it's not a one-man band: note Ivanov's reappearance) concluded that Russia was in danger. For Russians, defence always comes first – Anglo-Americans have no comprehension of the Russian experience of war. Last year he described some Russian super-weapons – obviously in development for some time – that checkmated Washington. He mentioned another one this time and a subordinate explained how it will nullify whatever Washington comes up with to replace the INF Treaty it destroyed. Whatever Washington can dream up tomorrow Moscow has already blocked: "The U.S.-Russia Nuclear Arms Race Is Over, and Russia Has Won" (in Newsweek of all places). Now that security has been ensured (and better, I think, than at any time in Russia's thousand-year history), the original program can be resumed. Therefore, most of his speech (83% by word count) was about the program: birth rate, poverty, infrastructure, administrative simplification, rule of law/rules and modernising. Few in the West get this. RFE has an amusing annotated version of the speech. Roman historical parallels are always fun and fashionable – these guys are like the Optimates: the Republic/world order they think they're restoring no longer exists.

DEMOGRAPHICS. Karlin's latest assessment. Summary: fertility boom over, now at EU averages. Life expectancy rising and infant mortality dropping. Read it all, many charts and facts.

INTERNAL POLITICAL CRISIS? From Southfront. Thesis is that sluggish living standards, stagnant political culture, increased taxes and the unpopular pension reform are seriously hurting the popularity of the government. My assessment is that, while there is something to it, the authors overstate the case. Hahn discusses some possible cracks in the inner circle. Certainly things to keep in mind and, if Putin does go at the end of his term (which I expect him to), there will some jostling, but Putin has many times shown that he sees far ahead and I anticipate a smooth transition to a carefully chosen successor. But I mainly make my case on the simple observation that if we compare Russia 2000-2019 with any Western country, the contrast jumps out at you: successful effective government in one and… well… not so much.

INFRASTRUCTURE. Awara report on airports. And, again, roads and bridges. Just talked to a friend back from a long river cruise, who has been there many times since the 1970s – everywhere new construction and restored old. Meanwhile from the Western media, same old, same old.

SKRIPALMANIA. The best theory I've seen so far. Of course, you're free to stay with the official story which now requires you to contemplate why super-deadly "novichok" requires removing the roof of the house while Zizzi's, old roof and all, is open for business.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. Maybe Russia is "aggressive" because "it feels threatened by the quality of Western institutions and Western alliances". Then again, maybe not.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Warsaw and Munich. Two cases of the Europeans being rudely ordered to get on board. Last year I suggested Trump was being insulting on purpose in order to cut American foreign entanglements. He certainly has a gift for picking offensive spokesmen.

NEW NWO. A Gallup poll asked respondents in 133 countries to rate four countries' leadership: Germany 39% approval. China 34%, USA 31% and Russia 30%. The fall of the US is Trumpism (real and imagined) but the rise of Russia and China – especially given the hostility of the MSM – is striking.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

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