US-RUSSIA. Something is happening under the surface with the two Presidents corresponding. Unfortunately someone leaked it, which is never good when delicate negotiations are beginning and each has been forced to insist there will be no tradeoffs or quid pro quo. The Russian Defence Minister reiterated that the stationing of Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad has always been conditional (something some don’t seem to understand). For what it’s worth, here’s Shevardnadze’s opinion of how we got here (JRL/2009/41/34): “So who is the initiator of this new tension between the US and Russia?” Shevardnadze: “America”.
CRIME. Medvedev addressed the Collegium of the Prosecutor General’s Office on the 25th: “The total number of crimes registered has decreased, this is indeed the case, but nonetheless, more than 2,000 murders were unsolved last year, tens of thousands of people are listed as missing, and crimes of an extremist nature rose by almost a third.” No sugar coating there.
CORRUPTION. The Prosecutor General says about 3700 corruption-related criminal cases were opened in 2008. Meanwhile charges have been laid against Navy officials suspected of attempting to smuggle weapons to China.
POLITKOVSKAYA TRIAL. The Prosecutor General’s Office, still reeling from the collapse of the case, insists that the Makhmudov brothers were involved and has appealed the acquittal. Meanwhile, Medvedev is reported to have told the prosecutors that they “should learn to work with the existence of the institution of the jury… It is time to learn to do this, and not discuss how good it was back when this institution did not exist”.
PROTEST. Kasparov & Co’s latest vehicle, Solidarity, held a rally in Moscow on the 21st. This time, rather than refusing the location offered by the city (a central one on the Boulevard Ring) and forcing a confrontation for the sake of Western media coverage, they accepted it; a few hundred turned out and there were no incidents.
DEMOGRAPHICS. Still declining, but not as badly: in 2008 the population declined 363,500, about 20% better than the year before. Putin claimed the highest birthrate since 1992 with 260,000 more than 3 years before and claimed life expectancy was up nearly 3 years.
RUSSIA INC. RosStat reported foreign direct investment had dropped by 14.2% to US$103.8 billion in 2008. (In a bright spot McDonald’s announced plans to invest US$120 million in opening more restaurants). The Finance Minister said capital flight between October and January had been about US$200 billion. Foreign debt totals about US$40 billion. The Reserve and National Wealth Funds total about US$220 billion. Putin told the United Russia party conference that the crisis had not ended but again expressed his confidence that Russia would get through.
COLOUR-FAST. His predecessor and his former ally think Mr Orange should quit; his former ally thinks Mr Rose should quit and, with the closing of Manas, Mr Tulip is being regarded as a Russian stooge. Stage managed quasi legal overthrows for the sake of the NATO expansion obsession were not, in fact, the answer to these countries’ problems.
GEORGIA. I’m sure many of my readers think I bang on too much about Georgia but I do so because of the absurd coverage that is prevalent in the West and the importance of Georgia to the anti-Russia mental construct (for 15 years now!). I highly recommend you read the interview with Nino Burjanadze in JRL/2009/45. She explains why it is necessary to get rid of Saakashvili; she is not Moscow’s apologist or stooge but understands that Georgia should have “stayed within the framework of civility”.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)