Russian flag

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).

CORRUPTION. The CEO of the Vostochniy cosmodrome was arrested. The project has seen a lot of corruption and embezzlement.

ARCTIC. There are eight "Arctic nations". But only one, thanks to its unequalled fleet of powerful icebreakers, has the capability to do anything more than maintain a thin presence. Helmer discusses.

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

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20 Responses to RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 5 NOVEMBER 2020 by Patrick Armstrong

  1. J says:

    I love how Putin has been reprimanding Erdogan over his ‘importing’ Syrian jihad types to Azerbaijan to fight the Armenian ‘infidels’ as both Erdogan and the jihad’s call them. The jihadists are being provided a $2,000 per month stipend to fight against Armenia.
    With Armenia falling under the umbrella defense pacts with Russia, Putin has let Erdogan and the Azerbaijani Prez know in no uncertain terms that if they continue their follies, they will be fighting not only Armenia, but the full weight and breadth of the Russian Military.
    Putin is quite angry with outsiders like Turkey interfering in the Nagorno-Karabakh situation.
    Putin saved Erdogan from being skinned alive by an assassination attempt, I don’t think any future assassination attempts against Erdogan, will receive Putin’s forewarning.

  2. Laura Wilson says:

    Thanks for this…I always find these updates fascinating. Helps me digest the “regular” news with some background.

  3. @J
    Yeah. I think Erdogan has passed his best before date as far as VVP is concerned. But Putin never loses sight of the long game.

  4. Bill H says:

    I always treasure PA’s Russian sitreps. Sort of like sitting behind the looking glass and getting a peek out at the real world. Refreshing to read real journalism instead of, “According to anonymous sources… and “Trump claimed without evidence that…”

  5. fakebot says:

    I read Putin may be suffering from the onset of Parkinson’s disease and is planning to step down early next year. Is there any truth to that?

  6. Johnb says:

    Agree with your Black Box analogy Patrick, those on the outside can only be reactive as opposed to decisive. These bills were foreshadowed at the beginning of VVP’s current term. I saw them as a vehicle for the transition of this and future Presidents from the Office of President to a collective of knowledge as to what happened yesterday. For VVP it will mean losing the day to day but to retain input into critical decision making, a sort of working retirement. You have reported how the new governing elite are being built and tested. Interesting that Kudrin has just made, in my opinion, a clumsy move to once again raise his political profile. VVP’s sideways move looks to be late 2021, early 2022 latest for a simple best guess.

  7. Fred says:

    Interesting news on detecting cancer. Thank you.

  8. @fakebot
    According to Bryan MacDonald, whom I regard as a pretty reliable reporter, the source is a well-known and very unreliable rumour promoter.
    All sorts of crap is disseminated about VVP.

  9. Leith says:

    Patrick & Fred – re cancer diagnosis via analytes in the blood, it has been going on for a long time.
    “Raman spectroscopic probing of blood components and of whole blood has been on-going for more than four decades and has proven useful in applications ranging from the understanding of hemoglobin oxygenation, to the discrimination of cancerous cells from healthy lymphocytes, and the forensic investigation of crime scenes.”
    From the Journal of the Society of Applied Spectroscopy by Canadian researchers.
    You can download the full article at:
    But that effort has also been going on at NYU, MIT, and some outfit in Tel Aviv.

  10. ISL says:

    Always enjoy these sitreps, thanks Patrick!
    Usually where there is a large difference between the polls and the outcome, there is a reasonable suspicion that the election was not fair and free.
    Russian exit polls suggested a fair and free election in 2018 for president.
    So blah blah blah about Gooses and ganders for the country of the shining beacon on the hill – window washer please?

  11. @fakebot
    Of course I’m talking about the Putin clone. The real one died years ago. (Time to do another edition of nonsense about VVP)

  12. @ISL
    Yes, by and large, grosso modo, Russian election results fit the numerous polls pretty well. Anomalies like very high votes in Chechnya are explained, I think, by the nature of Chechen society with teips and elders and so on who can get the word out that VVP is the best choice for Chechens.

  13. @Leith
    AS I said Sputnik sometimes gets a little premature with science announcements and I guess it has here. There’s a Russian proverb that you shouldn’t divide up the skin of a bear before killing it.

  14. J says:

    Boris Bazhanov, Stalin’s former personal secretary, claimed that Stalin said: “Я считаю, что совершенно неважно, кто и как будет в партии голосовать; но вот что чрезвычайно важно, это кто и как будет считать голоса.”
    There is quite a dustup going on concerning the veracity or not of the claim of this attribute to Stalin vs Bazhsanov. Snopes as well as Facebook factcheck are dissing it and have gone so far as to delete delete delete regarding it, which has caused quite a tizzy.

  15. Fred says:

    Yes, however this report is of a mobile unit with a 45 minute response time. Sounds like a big improvement in the process. It would be interesting to know the failure rates of false positives/negatives.

  16. @J
    For the non Russianists the quotation is the one about how it doesn’t matter who votes, it’s who counts them that is important. Bazhanov appears to the the sole source

  17. J says:

    Have you seen the Russian TV documentaries/interviews with the SVR director on his SVR turf? One of the journos that was granted access to the SVR HQ, was awe struck.
    Noticed that it’s the same anywhere one goes in the Intelligence world, they all have cafeterias. I saw that and laughed over that one.

  18. J says:

    Russia’s MOD getting a Naval Logistics Base – Sudan.
    How is this going to play out with the Chinese PLA in the same watering hole? Who will get first dibs at the water trough?

  19. J says:

    Putin met with the heads of Defense, Federal Agencies, and Defense Companies, the summary of the meeting was published on the President’s webiste Nov. 11th.
    IMO Putin is sending a not so subtle message to both the Biden camp and their NECON pond scum, that Russia isn’t going to play their games.
    “It is absolutely clear that the combat capability of the nuclear triad, and the capability of the army and navy on the whole to adequately and quickly respond to potential military challenges directly depend on the stability, effectiveness and reliability of these systems under any circumstances…
    First of all, we need to work seriously to boost the survivability of the control systems…We all realise this, and we are aware that a lot depends on the survivability of these systems and their ability to continue operating in a combat environment…
    In fact, we have to guarantee this even in the event of a nuclear strike…They have told me that the creation of an absolutely secure facility for controlling strategic nuclear forces, among others. is nearing completion, and that it will have a very high safety margin…
    Let us discuss this today, too. Let us get down to work”.
    And to underscore their seriousness, all one has to do is look at their body language etched on their faces and how they’re sitting in their chairs.

  20. J says:

    Here’s some more of just how serious and down to business that Putin and the MOD are:
    Putin’s new nuclear hardened strategic command post.
    Putin’s message to Biden and his NECON/NEOCON war mongering pond scum is quite clear.

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