PUTIN SPEECH. Read the whole thing if you want to know what he’s thinking; if you haven’t time, read this. Nothing new – unilateral world is a disaster, only multilateral agreements can work. But more pointed this time. And he’s right: what rational entity thinks Washington improved Kosovo, Libya, Iraq, ISIS, Ukraine? Catastrophe and chaos everywhere. USA continues to win the greatest threat to peace poll. Some lines that struck me: “Russia does not need any kind of special, exclusive place in the world… While respecting the interests of others, we simply want for our own interests to be taken into account… We don’t need to be a superpower; this would only be an extra load for us… We have had more than enough of those revolutions in the 20th century. What we need is evolution… It is impossible to keep humiliating one’s partners forever in such a way… We have no desire to return to our totalitarian past. This is not because we fear anything, but because this path leads to a dead end…”.
SANCTIONS. An argument for Russian food counter-sanctions is that they would boost domestic producers. So far so good: production up nearly 17%. Russia’s GDP is doing better than predicted. In fact Igor Shuvalov sees them helping modernisation and hopes they continue. Meanwhile Germany’s business confidence drops some more.
JIHADIST ATTACKS. Have returned. Suicide bomber in Grozniy; fighting in Dagestan and the claim that a number of attacks had been averted. This may be attributable to the IS call for attacks world-wide. (Moscow provides weapons to Iraq as well as Syria in their wars against IS).
TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE. Khodorkovskiy before he became the West’s darling, only a decade ago: “Investors in Khodorkovsky’s projects regularly found that they had acquired worthless pieces of paper.”
GAS TALKS. I couldn’t put it better: Ukraine can’t pay. And, when it gets cold, it will start stealing the gas passing through on the way to Europe. My advice to Moscow is show the gas pressure in the lines entering Ukraine on a webcam. Russia is sending the gas it contracted to; if less comes out the other end, that’s Europe’s problem. “Pottery Barn rule”.
UKRAINE ELECTION. The most intelligent analysis I’ve read. Low turnout in south, east and Transcarpathia. High in Galicia, mediocre in centre. Ukraine is still divided: knowing the fix is in, the others have stopped bothering to vote. Here is perhaps the least intelligent analysis: burkas in east Ukraine? “A house hit by shelling in east Ukraine where turnout was much lower”: why do you suppose turnout was lower? “Voted in droves”? – the turnout was 52-53% (presidential election claimed about 60%). (Ominously, Svoboda claims that “Putin’s agents” falsified the results to their disadvantage. Stay tuned.)
NEW NWO. Moscow and Beijing create two new working groups. A US$100 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is being created. Moscow, Minsk and Astana are contemplating their own interbank financial system. A gas trading facility that will bypass the USD has been created in St Petersburg. The Bear and the Dragon, a continuing story. When does the Tiger join?
GEORGIA. PM Garibashvili says Tbilisi wants to begin a “real reconciliation” with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. While I do not blame the present government, I think it is too early for this. Tbilisi has to seriously confront its responsibility.
QUOTE OF THE DAY. “We lied to the Americans about that.” And who else is lying to them, do you think?
ESTONIA. An opposition party is calling for allowing anyone born in Estonia or living there before 1991 to receive citizenship. About 15% of the population are not citizens (either Russian or stateless). This is not only a violation of their rights (not that Western assessments are much excited) but bad for Estonia’s security to have so many disgruntled non-citizens.