RUSSIA AND EUROPE. Readers will know that since the Ossetia war I have been predicting a change in European attitudes towards Russia. My argument is that many there have realised what a bill of goods they were sold about Saakashvili, Georgia and Russia (to say nothing about the gas supply problem) and will therefore be re-considering their ideas about Russia’s alleged hostility. Some more indications: Medvedev seems to have had a fruitful visit to France and I would expect similar results when he visits Italy today. Furthermore, it appears that his ideas on a new security treaty (Russ, Eng) are at least being listened to rather than dismissed as they first were. And, interestingly enough, Berlusconi just visited Belarus signalling the end of the shunning of “Europe’s last dictator”.
NATO EXPANSION. Russians have been saying NATO promised not to expand. Are they right? Apparently.
DEMOGRAPHICS. More gradual improvements are reported as births continue to increase and deaths decrease. One analyst expects that, at present rates, the two rates will cross over in 18 months or so. A rather large drop (even suspiciously so – there is a mild anti-alcohol campaign on) in alcohol consumption is reported.
GAS. At their meeting a couple of weeks ago, Tymoshenko promised Putin that Ukraine would fulfill all its commitments. Gazprom is estimating a price next year of US$280 tcm with a reduced supply – it and Naftohaz agreed to cut gas deliveries by 35% in 2010. Then Medvedev said that Belarus’s price would be 30-40% lower than for EU states in 2010. For comparison, Germany was paying about $230 tcm in October; but it pays a fluctuating price which, a year earlier was $576 tcm. Russia is still subsidising its neighbours. But to a lesser degree than before.
MAGNITSKIY. The lawyer for Hermitage Capital Management, Sergey Magnitskiy died in prison in Moscow where he had been held on a tax dispute for a year. Medvedev ordered an investigation on the 24th. A consequence it appears of Russia’s brutal pre-trial detention rules and the appalling condition of the ancient and overcrowded prison. For what it’s worth, the prosecutors say he was involved in a scheme to illegally buy and sell Gazprom stock.
ZAKONIKI. A year or so ago I joked that, given Medvedev’s utterances about “legal nihilism”, the Kommentariat would stop talking about the siloviki and start talking about the sinister zakoniki behind him. Well, it hasn’t happened, but Russia’s top courts and RIA-Novosti have announced a program to “provide prompt and objective coverage of the Russian judiciary and legal system”.
RUSSIA INC. As of 20 November, Russia’s international reserves were up again to US$443.8 billion. GDP fell 8% year-on-year in October but has been inching up over the last five months. Foreign investment is way down however; that decline is, of course, not just because of Russia’s actions and events.
HISTORY WARS. For those among you who read Russian, here is a site with a lot of Russian historical documents. Evidently part of Medvedev’s Get the History Right project.
TERRORISM. A bomb derailed the Nevskiy Express on the 27th, killing a number of people. The police are tending to suspect jihadists. On the 20th a priest was murdered in his church, there may be a similar connection. Another bomb on a railway line in Dagestan failed to do damage.
STATUES. The Lenin statue in Kiev that was vandalised in June has been restored and re-erected. Does that mean that Leninism has returned to Kiev? And Moscow’s Worker and Collective Farm Woman statue has been re-erected after a long renovation.
THINGS YOU WON’T HEAR. A poll in the Czech Republic poll shows 80% of the respondents happy with Obama’s decision to stop the missile deployment. A poll in Poland just after the decision also showed approval. Clearly a gap between certain politicians and the population here.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)