SYRIA ET AL. Whenever something horrible happens in the world that Western governments and media outlets actually notice, we find two different reactions from Moscow and Washington. Moscow confines itself to anodyne statements about constitutional agreement, peace and so forth – admirable sentiments which do nothing. Washington, on the other hand, feels it has to pick a side and blame those that don’t. US media outlets either create this judgement or follow along (which comes first?). Washington then accuses Moscow (and others) of preventing it “doing something”; the media picks up this line and fills up with stories (many of which don’t prove to be true: this one again, for example). When the crisis ends, interest and coverage do too. The collective memory is wiped clean and attention moves to the next CNN crisis. Since the end of the Cold War I recall four of these “humanitarian interventions” that exemplify this pattern. No one today ever mentions Somalia (1992) or Haiti (1994); the first being an utter disaster and the second ineffective. As to Kosovo (1999) we never heard about the KLA and organ harvesting at the time or much else about the people NATO put into power today; as to Libya (2011) mention of gunmen fighting it out or knock-on effects in Chad or Mali stays far in the back pages. The reality is that these “humanitarian interventions” aren’t such big successes that anyone should lightly proceed to the next one. So, if Putin “lectured” Obama, whose knowledge of the world is a bit shaky, I have some sympathy with him. Their bland joint statement here.
PROTESTS. New fines for unauthorised protests have been passed. Putin’s press secretary said he would not sign until he had looked at European norms and carefully considered. Didn’t take him long – he signed 2 days later. Much flapdoodle – this ever-reliable hater of all things Putin manages, in the same piece, both to suggest Putin is weakened by continual large-scale protests and that he is cracking down on them. Alas for his thesis, there was another large anti-Putin protest on Tuesday that passed off without incident. (And a very mixed bag turn out these days). Russia has rules, the same as everyone else: ask for a permit, where, when and how many, negotiate with the city, get agreement and go ahead. Stick to the permit and nothing happens. Break the rules, and the cops move in. And, even in such exemplars of democracy as Canada, the rules can be changed. I am amused to see that VTsIOM finds that Putin’s and Medvedev’s ratings have improved since the protests began, Levada agrees. I leave it to you, Dear Readers, to speculate on how this could be. Given all the hoohah in Western news outlets.
CORRUPTION. A former senior policemen was sentenced to 9 years for a swindle; several senior officials in Kabardin-Balkaria were arrested for involvement in a property swindle; a former village council head got 9 years for taking a bribe. A very senior military medical officer arrested for bribe-taking. 4 policemen in Ufa were fired for negligence that led to murder. And, probably related to corruption, a newly-built road in Vladivostok collapsed.
MODERNISATION. This is going to be the big push I think. Both Putin and Medvedev have often spoken of the dangers of Russia’s economy being so dependent on oil prices, presently declining. Putin has created a council and has called for big investments.
MAGNITSKIY. After investigation, a case for negligence against the former head of the prison in which he died has been sent to the prosecutors. Not the least of the idiocies of the Magnitskiy Bill is that, logically, it must rely on Russian descriptions of the crime and the Russian investigation to determine the guilty.
UNEMPLOYMENT. Dropped, we are told to a 4-year low of 5.4%. No one in 2000 would have expected this; few in 2008 come to think of it either.
KARABAKH. Karabakh sources say an Azerbaijani probe was repulsed with casualties. Azerbaijan’s Deputy PM says Baku is ready to clear Karabakh of its “Armenian occupiers”. Russia, USA and France make a joint statement. A long-held concern is that, when Azerbaijan feels it has bought enough military power with its oil money, it will attack. If so, I confidently predict another defeat for Azerbaijanian forces.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)