CORRUPTION. Imagine an internationally respected survey showing equal levels of perceived corruption in Russia and the USA. The Ernst and Young 44th Global Fraud Survey finds 34% of Russians and 34% of Americans saying “Yes” to the question “that bribery/corrupt practices happen widely in business in their country” (a bit better than the world average of 39%). (Page 44). Especially interesting given Washington’s proclivity to use corruption accusations as foundations for regime change operations.
RUSSIA INC. We always hear that “Russia is declining“. Well, it isn’t. This from a member of Harvard’s Belfer Center, uses several different measurements to show Russia’s improvements since 2000; during this time most of its competitors have slipped. All pretty evident to commentators not living in Laputa. Speaking of which, some Russian sarcasm: “Backwards Russia under Putin’s Regime“.
NEW LAUNCH PAD. The Vostochniy Kosmodrome in the Amur region in Russia’s Far East just had its first launch. Video shows a brand-new blast deflector pit before it’s all burnt and dirty.
NATO. While a cynic might argue that NATO must return to the more profitable business of keeping the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down because fighting “terrorists” equipped with road-side bombs cannot ensure the retirement emoluments of generals, NATO itself is more sententious: it “safeguard[s] the freedom and security of its members through political and military means“. But a study shows rather little enthusiasm for even the most basic of its original functions: over half the Germans, French and Italians polled don’t want to fight to defend Poland or the Baltics. The authors bemoan this reluctance to rush to the colours at a time, say they, when “the Russian military has begun a campaign of intimidation against its neighbors”. Of course, they cannot imagine the possibility that these citizens simply don’t believe what they are told about Russian “aggression” and all the rest of it. To my mind, all the clatter about “Putin trolls” and Russia’s “information war” – the part of it that is not simply distraction and projection, at least – comes from the realisation the Party Line is not selling very well. In the old days they jammed our broadcasts, we didn’t worry about theirs. I find the poll results rather encouraging.
LATEST FAKE ATROCITY. “MSF says deadly air strike hit Aleppo hospital“. But the Russian MoD has published satellite photos showing the same damage was there a year ago. It’s all lies, propaganda and manipulation. Every now and again, even the tame WMSM admits it. A BBC reporter has quit – she can’t stand it any more. Very fishy story indeed: Kuwaiti incubators all over again.
CRACKS IN THE CARAPACE. Every now and again one can hope. A piece in the Boston Globe argues that conflict with Russia is against the US’ interest. The author says Clinton’s decision to expand NATO – “America’s worst foreign policy choice [after the Iraq invasion] of the post-Cold War era” – “was made haphazardly… He never convened a top-level meeting…” Just as Kennan said – “light-hearted“. And “How NATO became one of the most destructive forces on the planet” in Salon. But these will soon be compensated for by a hundred pieces on Putin’s troll factories or other junk.
UKRAINE. While on the subject of “information warfare”, we learn that Hromadske TV, which describes itself as “a joint project of Ukrainian journalists… objective and unbiased information“, turns out to be almost entirely funded by foreign governments. Wake me when you next see a Western media outlet say “foreign government funded Hromadske TV reported…”. Not Der Spiegel, nor NYT, nor The Guardian. The word громадське means “open” or “public”.
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. The Baltic ports are apparently suffering quite badly – and it’s not as if their economies were all that exciting before – from loss of Russian business. The US has a stockpile of unconsumed dairy products because of cheap European imports. Russia has passed the USA as the world’s number one wheat exporter. Russian tourists to Turkey are a tenth of last year. I continue to maintain that the net effect of the sanctions are more damaging to the West than to Russia. The French parliament evidently agrees – it has voted to end them. Not that, in the EU, it will make any difference. Any more than the Dutch referendum – swiftly overruled in parliament – did. Another indication the Official Line isn’t selling well.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada