VALDAI. Putin's speech is here. To my mind, other than the funeral crack, the most memorable bit was his strong defence of a mixed economy: when things are purring along, free enterprise does the job but in bad times you need the government. I'd say the last 20 years vindicates this point of view.
MOSCOW. I generally regard ratings lists as GIGO except when they provide an unexpected result as this does: Moscow fourth best city in the world for living and doing business. London, New York, and Paris ahead of it. Well… here's a New Yorker saying COVID has killed NYC, and a Brit saying London too. The world does turn, doesn't it? COVID is a gigantic black swan and it's hit the West very hard.
PRESIDENTS. Last week Putin submitted a bill to the Duma that would make ex-presidents members of the Federation Council, today another to given them extensive immunity. Is he planning to go soon? After my predictive failure nine years ago, I've given up. I have always expected him to go when he thought the time was right and has a successor ready; he'll determine the timing. But it's a black box and I don't know what's going on inside. (This is not pseudo wisdom about "Mysterious Russia": in any political process, we only see things going in and things coming out, what happens inside is speculation).
ARMS CONTROL. As START will probably not be renewed, I agree with a Russian chief designer that Russia is well ahead of the USA in nuclear weaponry.
RELIGIONS. Putin had his annual meeting with religious leaders. Quite a variety; read the list.
DOESN'T MAKE ANYTHING. Sputnik reports that Russian scientists have found a way to quickly diagnose cancer. We'll see: Sputnik sometimes gets ahead of itself on these matters.
SECURITY ORGANS. I think allowing intelligence officers take foreign citizenship and residency is being misinterpreted. If required “by the tasks of operational and intelligence activities”; it's not permission to get a winter home in Majorca.
SNOWDEN. He was granted permanent status residence and says he will apply for citizenship. He's very lucky the timing of his passport pull set him down in Russia – one of the few countries that has the will and muscle to defy Washington. Otherwise he'd be sharing the fate of Assange.
PC AND WOKENESS. An interesting essay arguing that the USA is repeating some Russian "follies".
THE DOSSIER. I was always sure it was made up but I thought there were no actual Russians involved. Turns out there were actual passport-holding Russians, now quarrelling, involved in the invention. Of course, should Biden win, all this will be forgotten and Rachel Maddow's version will become The Truth. But no Russian fiddling this time we are assured.
BREXIT. Oh, and Putin didn't do that either. But people got airtime and a few quid out of saying he did.
WESTERN VALUES™. The country that judges other countries' elections just had an election. Somebody won. One day a court will tell us who. Apparently counting votes is a tremendously difficult task, requiring enormous amounts of time.
BELARUS. A source suggests that the head of the SVR was sent to tell Lukashenka that the situation is serious, he should stop blaming outsiders and take responsibility for his mistakes. This, and other indications, suggest Moscow is pushing for a peaceful transfer of power. Anyway, Tikhanovskaya's "ultimatum" came and went without effect.
CHICKENS, HOME, ROOST. "…we have repeatedly warned our French partners of the dangers posed by terrorists of North Caucasian origin, while they accepted them as 'fighters for freedom'". "The extremists in this case are more cunning, clever and stronger than you, and if you play these games with them, you will always lose."
BIRTHRATES. We always hear about how Russians are disappearing but the fact is that turning West is much worse for your birthrate: for example the Baltics. Now we have some Ukraine numbers: 40% decline in the birthrate since the Maidan coup. Really, all Moscow has to do, if it covets the territory, is wait a couple of decades and then move into a forest with a few nursing homes scattered though it.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer