MILITARY. There may be more to last week’s retirements of three generals. One reporter suggests that their retirement has a connection with what he says are several cases of convicted officers being promoted. He has learned that the Presidential Administration has “frozen” their resignations and will be interviewing them to ascertain why “young, promising leaders are retiring from the army”. Report in English here. On the procurement problem – and the growing conviction that a lot of Russian-made weaponry is more expensive than it should be – a Deputy Defence Minister reports that overpricing is caused by an excessive number of subcontractors which, he said, can lead to sudden and unexplained price drops when the initial bid is challenged. It rather sounds as if this is a polite way of saying that many people are “wetting their beaks”.
“AGAINST ALL”. Russian ballots used to have an entry “Against All” and “Against All” could win and occasionally did. In that case, new election with new candidates. The provision was abolished in 2006 but Sergey Mironov, the leader of Just Russia, has introduced a bill to the Duma to bring it back. An interesting provision that very few countries dare to have because it might lead to unflattering discoveries. I suspect that the real reason Mironov made the proposal was to distinguish his party from United Russia. Whether it passes or is voted down, he will achieve that aim.
STOLYPIN. I have always had the suspicion that it is Putin’s dream to be considered a second and successful Piotr Stolypin and I have noticed the occasional reference to him in his speeches over the years. He has “suggested” government officials might “like” to contribute to a statue of Stolypin to commemorate his 150th birthday. I’ll bet all the officials would “like to” and that the statue appears.
INFRASTRUCTURE. There have been a couple of plane crashes lately and the sinking of a cruise boat on the Volga. Russian infrastructure is rather old and there is some concern. But new things are appearing: roads, hospitals, trains, farm equipment and so on. While a lot of it is foreign-made, it is undeniably new. But it’s a race.
Space. With the launch of the Atlantis, the USA has finished the Space Shuttle program. This leaves the space launch field pretty much to Russia. And to make the point, a Soyuz just launched six US satellites. Not a state of affairs to have been expected in 1961.
GEORGIA. Tbilisi has announced the arrest of three photographers on charges of spying for – of course – Russia. One of them is Saakashvili’s personal photographer. The case has been declared secret and no information is allowed out except what the regime chooses to say. Many Georgians have lost their confidence in what the government says and the Coalition for Media Advocacy has protested the secrecy of the case and the Public Defender also wants more evidence. It would appear that their “crime” was photographing the breakup of the protest on 26 May or perhaps selling photos to Russian news outlets. Anyone who believes anything official Tbilisi says is rather naïve. More scepticism about Saakashvili’s periodic discovery of plots from Dmitry Babich here. Meanwhile six opposition parties have united to form the Free Choice coalition. I find it instructive that two party leaders and the founders of one of the six held office under Saakashvili and two of the remaining three parties were former allies of his party. Saakashvili’s Western claque is oblivious to the fact that the people who know him best have, one by one, gone into opposition. (Why do I go on about Saakashvili? you may ask. It is because Georgia has been used for years as a stick with which to beat Russia. Western sources have displayed much credulity. Perhaps not so much any more though.).
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)