CHICKENS ROOSTING 1: CHINA. It was fun to rant on about the “energy weapon” and how Russia had to be cut out of pipelines: it was weak, getting weaker and had no other market. But it isn’t, didn’t and hasn’t. Rosneft’s CEO says annual oil sales – 7 million tonnes – to China ought to bring in US$2.4 billion a year in export duties. Russian energy sales to China can only get bigger because it suits each country’s interests. Why sell to a market that accuses you of evil intent when there’s one that doesn’t?
CHICKENS ROOSTING 2: EGYPT. It was fun to expand NATO and push Russia around: it was weak, getting weaker and had no friends. But it isn’t, didn’t and hasn’t. Washington’s stunningly incompetent – but still arrogant – policy is turning Cairo towards Moscow and Moscow is happy to reciprocate. A Russian warship is in Alexandria and Lavrov and Shoygu are about to visit. Much talk of close relations and arms sales. Given the excitement about its trivial presence in Tartus, just think of the ventricular fibrillation when the Russian Navy gets a base in Alex. And, keeping up the impression of revival, Russia’s snazziest-looking warship is now in the Med.
SNIPPETS. Not everyone is shunning Russia. Moscow and Tokyo have agreed to (finally) hold peace treaty talks in 2014. Italy and Russia have held a joint naval exercise in the Aegean. The King and Queen of the Netherlands visited. It’s been slower than I expected, but I do believe that reality is gradually taking hold: Russia is a “normal” country: it has its own interests and peculiarities to be sure, but shunning and excoriating it doesn’t get anyone anywhere. It’s neither going away nor fading away. And it’s not anybody’s enemy either.
ATTITUDES. VTsIOM has completed a series of surveys showing how life in Russia has changed in the past 10-15 years. In the process some hoary myths are dispelled. Russians feel their finances are OK, are reasonably happy, half the households have cars, they save more, support conscription (!), happy to stay in Russia and lots more. (Machine translation) (details in Russian). In short – contrary to the standard Western reportage – Putin & Co don’t have to cheat to get elected: they are actually doing those things that governments are hired to do. It’s really quite simple.
POLICE REFORM. The Interior Minister announced that lie detector tests will be required upon hiring or promotion. At the time it was evident that Medvedev’s big effort had started well enough but had fizzled out.
ANOTHER OTHER RUSSIA. As a reminder of the Russia that you don’t hear much about: a procession of an important icon in St Petersburg attracted about 50,000 people.
UNPANIC! “VLADIMIR PUTIN IS AFRAID OF HER”. Tolokonnikova has not been disappeared into Siberia: she’s been moved closer to home and her accusations against her former prison are being looked at. But, hey, it’s Russia: write whatever you like. And no, he’s not afraid of her: the US anti-Russia lobby is very ignorant.
THE MILLS GRIND SLOWLY. The Serdyukov investigation has been extended. Galina Starovoytova was murdered 15 years ago. Two shooters were convicted in 2005 and an organiser in 2006. On Friday, former LDPR Deputy Mikhail Glushchenko was charged with organising the murder. In the Politkovskaya trial, the entire jury has been dismissed, presumably taking things back to square one. This case is interminable. The first attempt failed; a key witness confessed but the re-trial has been cursed with endless delays.
SYRIA. Another reason to thank Putin: apparent dissent in the US intelligence community.
GEORGIA. President Margvelashvili says he won’t live in Saakashvili’s preposterous presidential palace and suggests it could become a university. Ivanishvili is holding to his intention to quit politics (at least visibly) and has named the Interior Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, to succeed. Under the new Constitution the PM will have the bulk of the power. Saakashvili appears to still be out of the country: I wonder if he will return? Ivanishvili observed that there were many charges that could be brought against him.
GAS WARS. Unfortunately Kiev wasted the decade of cheap gas not reducing Soviet-era waste and the next half decade in NATO-inspired fantasies. Now that Russia charges something like the real price it is forced to economise because it is having trouble paying and its own resources cannot take up the slack. So it says it will buy no more from Gazprom this year. The Prime Minister insists that Kiev wants good relations with Moscow. Thus, one hopes, the current dispute will stay economic rather get the “Orange Revolution” politicisation.