DUMA ELECTION. There have been innumerable reports that Russians are sick and tired of political realities; we hear this every time an election comes up (after all, a prevailing meme is that Putin & Co only hold onto power by cheating and manipulation) and it’s forgotten until the next time. However, there does seem to be some genuine evidence that people are getting tired of United Russia. This is The Team’s dilemma: while it has successfully constructed a “pedestal party”, something that eluded Yeltsin, United Russia is still little more than a grouping of those in power and those who want to be. Many of its apparatchiks are not very popular in local areas. Nonetheless, one could hardly expect the perennial, and unchanged, opposition of the Communists and LDPR to offer much more hope. I expect that United Russia will remain the largest party but would not be surprised to see its percentage cut – no bad thing (Putin would agree: less of a rubber stamp and more of a Duma that thinks. Not, of course, that he wants any discontinuity). What I’m less confident about is what the disgruntled will do. Many I suspect will stay home but it will be interesting to see whether Just Russia, Right Cause or Yabloko profit from the mould that has grown on United Russia. For years now the Communists and LDPR have shared a (declining) sector of the vote and I don’t think that their total share will much change. We’ll find out on Sunday. As for those who are convinced Russian elections are rigged, I recommend Anatoly Karlin’s piece which shows that results accord with earlier opinion polls. (And for those who think they’re rigged, all I can say is that that would be an improbable amount of rigging.)
CFE. Washington has decided to stop passing CFE information to Russia “after repeated efforts, including high-level efforts to save the treaty”. Then the UK did the same citing Russia’s failure to fulfil its obligations. Now let me see if I’ve got this right: after long negotiation and re-negotiation of this effective arms reduction treaty, Russia ratified it in 2004. NATO, after sticking in some new conditions, and ignoring the satisfaction of one of them, did not. Russia complained for years and finally withdrew in 2007 from a treaty only it, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan had ratified. And it’s Russia that that won’t cooperate?
WTO. At last! A Swiss-developed compromise has been accepted by Tbilisi and Moscow and it appears that Russia will be admitted next month. Bidzina Ivanishvili says Saakashvili was pressured into agreeing; I am inclined to agree with him and it’s another sign of how much standing he has lost since his adventure in South Ossetia. Obama promised Medvedev that he would start to end Jackson-Vanik (and how indeed could the two co-exist?).
RUSSIA INC. The Central Bank of Russia now estimates private capital outflow for 2011 will be US$70 billion, not US$36 billion; it was US$38.3 billion last year, down from US$56.9 billion the year before. Not a good sign at all.
SOMETHING NOT TO BE IMAGINED TEN YEARS AGO. Medvedev’s economic adviser says that Moscow is prepared to help stabilise the European economy via the IMF; the sum mentioned was up to $10B.
RUSSIAN WARSHIPS TO SYRIA. CGS General Makarov denies it. But, once again, Moscow, fearing that all change is for the worse (vide Kosovo and Libya), is trying to be the middle man.
RELIC. As a reminder that there is more to Russia than Kremlin rumourology, a relic important in Orthodoxy has attracted enormous crowds of worshippers throughout Russia.
STALIN. Given the endless and unending nonsense about Putin and Stalin, I doubt the creation of a GULag Museum in Moscow will be noticed any more than the inclusion of sections from the GULag Archipelago on school reading lists is remembered.
THE MIGHTY RUSSIAN ARMS BUILDUP. The Air Force expects about 90 new or refurbished aircraft in 2012 and the Navy 8-10 diesel submarines by 2020. Pay increases. Not much: this is the USAF’s 2012 shopping list.
TROUBLE IN PARADISE. The presidential elections in South Ossetia have gone sour; the local Supreme Court has invalidated the results; the opposition candidate insists she won. Trouble coming. Discussion here.
ANOTHER “COLOURED REVOLUTION” FAILS. The newly elected President of the Kyrgyz Republic (Otunbayeva kept her word not to run) says the Manas agreement will not be renewed. Now that Pakistan has shut down NATO supply lines into Afghanistan, I would advise NATO to start taking Moscow’s concerns seriously.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)