Today’s Quotation About Putin

The Western enthusiasm for Mr Putin is difficult to understand. As befits a spy, his track record is almost invisible. He worked briefly for one of the country’s best-known reformers, Anatoly Sobchak. But his successful career in the FSB (as the KGB is now known) suggests that liberalism is not always his prime concern.

Only on one issue can we see just where Mr Putin stands. Very depressing it is, too. His conduct of the war in Chechnya – where civilians are as flies to wanton boys, killed for the Kremlin leaders’ sport – has been a cynical disgrace. There is mounting evidence, too, that the lethal bombings that provided popular support for the assault on Chechnya may have been the work of agents provocateurs.

The Independent, editorial, “Mr Putin Does Not Deserve Praise Unless He is a Catalyst for Change”, 28 march 2000,

How to Read the Western Media

HOW TO READ THE WESTERN MEDIA. When they say Kiev forces have re-taken the airport, know that they have lost it. When they say giving up South Stream was a defeat for Putin, know it was a brilliant counter-move. When they say Russia is isolated (a stopped clock, here’s The Economist in 1999!), know that it is expanding its influence and connections every day. When they say Russians are turning against Putin, know that the opposite is true. When they speak of nation-building in the new Ukraine, know it’s degenerating into armed thuggery (see video). Know that when they speak of Kyrzbekistan, they’re not just stenographers, they’re incompetent stenographers. Take what they say, turn it upside down, and you’ll have a better take on reality.

Today’s Quotation About Putin

We’re still hoping to get that glimpse of Mr. Putin’s soul that President Bush talked about last month — the one that convinced him that the Russian president “is a straightforward, honest man” and “a remarkable leader” whom his administration can trust. In the absence of such insight, we must rely on Mr. Putin’s public acts — which continue to be those of a budding autocrat who is systematically liquidating his country’s free press, responding to restless minorities with lies and dirty war and seeking to restore Russian influence in the world by supporting and encouraging such enemies of the United States as Iraq.

Washington Post Editorial, 5 July 2001


MY VERY OWN WEBSITE. I hereby announce Russia Observer. I’m gradually back-filling it with stuff I’ve written since I retired in May 2008. Also putting up selections from my extensive list of quotations by and about Putin. He was treated as a monstrum horrendum right from the start. Pity that lazy Western reporters didn’t bother to go to St Petersburg to see what people thought of their Deputy Mayor; we might be in a more rational place today if they had.

LITVINENKO. My thoughts in 2007. Thoughts in 2016: 1) to say “probably” is to admit you haven’t proven your case and 2) a twelve-year old could figure out Putin didn’t do it.

SOMETHING HAPPENING? The Litvinenko nonsense and the Putin-Richest-Man-In-The-World nonsense (where does he find the time to spend it? he’s always working) make me wonder if there is something to the rumour that the US and Russia are trying to do a deal on Ukraine and/or Syria. Given that neither deal would be what Washington originally wanted, maybe it’s time for a little feel-good vilification to distract from two more foreign policy catastrophes.

GOLD. The Central Bank of Russia says it now has 1415 tonnes, up 208.4 last year.

FOOD. More points on the curve: over-supply of potatoes and turkey production up about a third. Even the one-dollar newsmagazine notices: “One of the unintended consequences of Russia’s self-imposed food sanctions has been a strange and wonderful renaissance in its cuisine… that has transformed Moscow into one of the most interesting culinary capitals of Europe.Ditto.

CORRUPTION. Putin chaired a meeting of the Presidential Council for Countering Corruption and gave some numbers: “In the first 9 months of 2015 alone more than 8,800 people were convicted on criminal charges of corruption. Disciplinary action was taken against almost 11,000 officials for violations of the anti-corruption standards.” Is that a lot or a little? I must say I’m tired of seeing “corruption” used in a simple-minded way as a stick to beat Russia with. Certainly there is a great deal of small corruption there but I suspect that our side has more big corruption. It’s rather simple-minded to explain away Clinton’s enormous speaking fees from interested parties as being due to their understandable curiosity to hear her insights.

SYRIA. A Russian MoD spokesman gives the numbers: since September 5,662 sorties (145 from the big guys) and 97 cruise missiles. Intelligent and well-informed discussion of the state of play here at SST. Some new Russian videos here. Also humanitarian aid.

ENGAGEMENT. Japan’s PM and Canada’s Foreign Minister making noises about engagement with Russia. Hollande also. One can hope, but people are soon jerked back into line, aren’t they?

RUBLE. With Iran back in business as an oil exporter – the first ships are on their way to Japan and China now – the price of oil is likely to drop some more and the ruble to take another hit. Which it has. A good thing says this man, given the decline in energy prices because Russia produces oil in rubles which it sells for dollars.

MEDIA. Ever since a German reporter revealed the extent of CIA control and the lies against Russia went over the top, Germans have been abandoning their media outlets. And a new revelation shows the extent of government censorship. Don’t see the same in the Anglosphere although perusal of comments and all the scare-mongering about “Putin trolls” shows the spinmeisters know their line isn’t selling.

IRAN. UN sanctions lifted and so Iran returns. A victory for Tehran and now we face a world in which the endless US warring in the Middle East has made it more powerful than it would have been. Another unintended result.

TODAY’S ENTERTAINMENT. The Negativists are Wrong on Ukraine“. “Europe is in crisis. Once more, America will have to step in to save us“. “Poland’s government rails against foreign oppression. But its vision for the country was born in Moscow“. Strong evidence of the existence of a parallel universe. I’d say.

MINSK. Kiev’s envoy at the Trilateral Contact Group says it’s impossible to talk about elections or constitutional changes in Eastern Ukraine without resuming control over the Ukraine-Russia border. Well, the Minsk Agreement pretty clearly says different. So who’s holding up implementation?

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Websites: ROPV, US-Russia, Russia Insider, Russia Observer

We May be a Think Tank, But Don’t ask Us to Think

Putin, China, Iran, Al Quaeda and ISIS, together again at last! The new neocon nightmare!!!!

Al Qaeda and ISIS also pose a threat to the continued existence of the world order we have known for decades through their constant and periodically-successful efforts to destroy states on which regional order depends.

Those efforts unintentionally cohere with Putin’s drive to reverse the outcome of the Cold War by truncating the territory and sovereignty of Soviet successor states, separating Europe from the U.S., and breaking both NATO and the European Union. They coincide with Chinese undertakings through the finely-calibrated use and threat of force to gain territory, separate the U.S. from its Asian allies, and acquire hegemony in the western Pacific. They interact with Iranian efforts to expel the United States, Britain, and the West from the Middle East and establish Persian hegemony from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean.

Frederick W. Kagan, Kimberly Kagan, Jennifer Cafarella, Harleen Gambhir, and Katherine Zimmerman: U.S. GRAND STRATEGY: DESTROYING ISIS AND AL QAEDA, REPORT ONE; AL QAEDA AND ISIS: EXISTENTIAL THREATS TO THE U.S. AND EUROPE; January 2016

Today’s Quotation About Putin

Putin, after all, is noted for being one of the coldest, most ruthless of Soviet-era intelligence agents, and he has put the security apparatus in charge of Russia.

Georgie Anne Geyer, Universal Press Syndicate, “Trip reveals standards for NATO, Europe”, 22 June 2001,

Corruption is More Complicated Than That

I am tired of people talking about “corruption” in a simple-minded way.

Imagine three cases.

  1. The government spends tax money on a hospital but, in order to get any service, the patients must hand over small bribes to doctors, nurses and staff.
  2. The hospital is built, but the money for operating costs has been embezzled.
  3. The money for the hospital, operating costs and everything else is stolen before it leaves the capital.

Ask yourself these two questions.

  1. Which is the worst case of corruption? The answer is obvious: the third case although very few people know it even happened.
  2. Which is the most visible form of corruption? Again, obviously the first case because hundreds of people know about it.

And that is why I don’t take perceptions of corruption indices very seriously.

And it is why I think that, when people are speaking of corruption, they should think harder about big corruption and less about petty corruption.

For example: “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.” Or, in plainer language: “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose.” And that is certainly corruption.

I would suggest that our part of the world has a lot more invisible corruption than Russia even if the latter has more visible corruption.

So, the question of whether Russia is more corrupt than some other country needs much more careful thinking than it generally gets.

Today’s Putin Quotation

The world cannot develop effectively and positively if one state has a monopoly on taking and implementing whatever decisions it wants… In the history of mankind, such a drive for a monopoly has never ended well. For that reason, we are constantly proposing a different democratic world structure.

Geoffrey York and Chrystia Freeland: “We are not looking for enemies”, Globe and Mail, 14 Dec 2000

Today’s Quotation About Putin

Putinism is no more than the impoverished philosophy of absolute power shared by the security services and the oligarchs close to them. It is yet another road to nowhere followed by Russia across the endless snow-swept plains of its history.

Andrei Piontkovsky, “So much for the year of RF President Putin”, Globe and Mail, 28 Dec 2000.