PENSIONS. Responding to protests, Putin addressed the nation. He explained the necessity of reforming the pension system so as to keep it funded, explained other alternatives the government considered and explained why it rejected them, and made some softening modifications. As I expected, a little exercise to show that Batyushka listens. In essence, he has said "trust me". And, because they do, I would expect the protests to die down. And, changing the system is both necessary and appropriate.
RUSSIA INC. Industrial production January to July 2018 is up 3.1%. A bit better than the USA or EU.
FOREIGN CURRENCY. The Central Bank of Russia will not purchase foreign currency for the next month. No doubt to see what happens next.
LONG GAME. "[Stolypin said] 'Give Russia 20 years of internal and external peace and quiet and it will change beyond recognition.' Vladimir Putin and his team follow this dictum to the letter." Read it.
SYRIA. The final battle is being prepared. An informed opinion on the coming Idlib battle. Russian warships are gathering. Another faked up chemical attack is in the news: Moscow says it has evidence of preparations being made; Washington is warning. (Will the trained sheep again bleat "Assad has once again done the one thing that could stop his victory!") A new twitter girl has appeared on cue. Should there be another "attack", I have no idea what FUKUS will do. I am mystified: the last two US-led strikes could not have been less militarily effective; noisy indeed, but just blowing up stuff to no effect at all. Fake CW attacks met by fake responses; all I can think of to explain this is that it's theatre for the simple-minded to distract from some deeper game: well, Washington is talking to Damascus. Iran and Syria just made a military agreement. Iran has become stronger and more influential. This is an unplanned consequence of the failed neocon/liberal-interventionist wars wars in the area.
US SANCTIONS. Trump says he would consider lifting sanctions in Russia "if they do something that would be good for us." What I think he is doing here is preparing the ground for lifting sanctions. It's part of the art of persuasion. Up until now sanctions have had no conditions on them: Russia's bad and must be sanctioned until some future unstated something happens: don't forget that the years-obsolete Jackson-Vanik sanctions stopped just as the faked-up Magnitskiy sanctions began. Sanctions never end, only the excuses change. Trump has just moved the horizon a bit: "something good". Well, that's anything he says it is, isn't it? For those who don't understand what I'm saying, read this.
WHO KNEW? The USA imports oil from Russia. Quite a lot too: 15 million barrels in May. Canada's pipeline confusions create another market for Russian oil. Something else for counter-sanctions.
AMERICA-HYSTERICA. The departure of McCain may reduce the passion for a time.
PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. "Russia trolls 'spreading vaccination misinformation' to create discord." (Don't forget to read "Why you can trust BBC News" at the bottom.)
PROBLEMS WITH THE NARRATIVE. The interesting fact is that, despite the non-stop hysteria over Russia and Putin that we have seen for what – decades? or just one decade? – it's not really having such a strong effect. A recent Gallup poll shows 58% of respondents think it is more important to improve relations with Russia than to take steps against it. 58%!!!! The "Russia interfered" story has been sold to the masses but Dems think it affected the outcome and Repubs do not (which is evidence of confusion as to just what the "interference" was.)
NEW NWO. Some people think Putin's meeting with Merkel was very big: Ishchenko, Escobar, Doctorow, Bloomberg. Wait and see: it will be a long, complicated process of small moves, some forward, some back. But see below.
EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Or are they? On the one hand, Macron says Europe must stop depending on Washington for security and have more cooperation with Russia and again today; the German Foreign Minister says much the same; the German Finance Minister says Europe must develop its own payments system. On the other, Siemens is pulling out of Iran, Total has already gone, Airbus is scrambling. Does Europe still have "two feet" to stand on? EU's loss is Russia's and China's gain.
THE EMPTINESS OF FORMER FLAPS. As the excitement over last year's Zapad exercises ends, it's time to wind up the alarm for the Vostok exercise. (Dumbest comment is, and will remain, this one: "One of the reasons that Russia invited Chinese forces to the exercise was to defray any concern in Beijing that the wargames are directed towards China.")
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer