Happy New Year! (as much as it can be, that is) С Новым Годом!
RUSSIA AND COVID. Total deaths in the first 11 months of 2020 are 13.8% higher than in 2019 – 81% of this increase, she estimates, is connected with COVID. This would suggest 186K fatalities which is quite a bit higher than the 116K put out previously. Here's Karlin's analysis. As for my part, I haven't a clue. I feel I know less than I did at the start when I said the Diamond Princess gave us the basic data. Since then, we've had a multitude of contradictory information, for example see here: for every datum, there is a contradicting one; for every confident opinion, a contrary one. Usually, over time, possibilities narrow but not in this case. I don't know. And things like this make me reach for the tinfoil.
VACCINE. AstraZeneca and Sputnik's maker have made a cooperation agreement. The Sputnik vaccine has been approved for people over 60. Belarus and Kazakhstan will start producing it soon. About a million injections issued as of today. The first foreign countries are starting to receive it.
SPORTS. Russian athletes can't compete under their flag for two years. The mistake the Russians made was not getting on to Therapeutic Exemptions. That way you can transform asthmatics into world champion endurance athletes. Or champion cyclists. Cold War II contaminates everything.
THEFT. On the 8th thieves stole equipment from one of Russia's four "doomsday" C3I planes. But nothing important we're told three weeks later. Pretty embarrassing either way.
OPEN SKIES. Now that Washington has pulled out of the Open Skies Treaty, Moscow is understandably concerned that US allies will pass information to Washington anyway. It is awaiting assurances that they won't. My guess is it won't get them, (more Russian "assertiveness") and that that treaty will die too.
BIDEN'S Administration will be full of Russiagate believers, but I agree with the Saker: "sound and fury, signifying nothing". But Moscow may be sending messages to the few that can hear…
1) WEAPONS. And the rollout of new weapons continues. The first regular production Su-57 enters service. Its companion RPV Okhotnik (hunter) will carry out flight tests with weapons in 2021. And a military design bureau specialising in developing weapons for extreme Arctic conditions has been re-opened. So let's add it up: the First Guards Tank Army, an MRD in Kaliningrad, new weapons – especially hypersonic missiles, new warships at regular intervals, new nuclear weapons, serious presence in the Arctic, continuous tests and exercises, coastal missile brigade in Sakhalin. And China and Russia keep getting closer to a formal military alliance (Chinese poll put relations with Russia way out in front.). A joint air patrol of strategic bombers (of course it "does not target any third party"). "A light-hearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs".
2) COMPUTERS. Many US agencies have been penetrated by what seems to be espionage rather than "hacking". Whodunnit? There's no evidence (big players aren't going to leave any are they? No "Feliks Edmundoviches" to titillate the simple-minded). Remember reports that the US was attacking the Russian power grid? Doctorow suspects Moscow is telling Washington that it already knows everything. Maybe. A lesson of history is that you can start a war with Russia, but Russia is likely to finish it. Another is that Russian/Soviet intelligence is very, very good. But we don't know who did it.
RUSSIAN HACKING. Notice the Russians were hacking away, interfering, breaking in continuously from January to October, stopped completely in November and resumed in December. Amazing, isn't it?
FAKE NEWS. "Believed to be … are feared… concerns … if,.. is said to be… thought to have been… It's believed". Another rock solid story.
BLAKE. George Blake, a famous double agent for Soviet intelligence, died in Moscow at 98. Putin's statement is here. What turned him, he said, was his experience in North Korea where he witnessed the relentless USAF bombing of a country already ruined by 35 years of brutal Japanese occupation. The US dropped more bombs on North Korea than it had in the entire Pacific campaign 1941-1945 killing 20% of the population and destroying everything. How many Blakes were created by Raqqa, do you suppose?
NOT ON YOUR "NEWS" OUTLET. Ukraine press conference.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer