Russia Is Finished Quotations

The turbulent events of the past seven days are a defeat for President Boris Yeltsin, a huge setback to the cause of reform, and a warning to the West…[Zhirinovskiy] will be ideally placed in coming months to exploit popular discontent…Just over a hundred days ago, Yeltsin’s forces blew up the old Russian parliament and killed 147 people in the name of reform…The government is now dominated by men who have a strong taste for communist style state controls of the economy…the death of liberal Russia is a direct consequence of the free vote held on 12 December.

Tony Barber, “Back to the USSR”, The Independent on Sunday, 23 Jan 1994

The August 1991 Coup Attempt and Me

David Jones (who just died the other day. RIP) organised an annual meeting at his ancestral home in Bedford Basin, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Purpose to talk about all the stuff that was going on in the USSR. I was one of the participants (greatly outranked by most of the others. Thank you David).

So, down I went to Halifax in August 1991 by car with my wife for the latest. We have the meeting; serious bunch of people, knowledgeable and informed. I remember, on the last day, having a debate with one of the participants on the subject that the Soviet Armed Forces had more power than ever before; I argued no, they were just as divided on perestroyka, glasnost, Gorbachev and what was happening as any other part of the USSR and could not be considered as monolithic at all. Anyway, after convivial discussions boozing chatting and so on, we get into the car to drive back to Ottawa on Sunday. Overnight somewhere in Vermont.

Turn on the TV in the motel Monday 19 August and there’s the news of the coup – tanks on the street, Gorbachev overthrown, lots of people saying “told you it wouldn’t last”. Sinking feeling in the stomach – it always hurts to be proved wrong. Here I am saying no coup and I’m instantly contradicted by the facts. And will probably get home to be fired (I heard years later that one senior had been joyfully saying that at least we’ll never have to hear from Armstrong again.) But tank crews arguing with citizens is not the sign of a successful coup I think as I drive. As the day wears on and we listen to whatever we can get (no Internet then, boys and girls, only what we now scornfully call the Lame Stream Media; so you had to listen carefully through the piffle and bias and deduce heavily) it occurs to me that this coup really isn’t working out very well. In short, coups have to be fast and total (or at least look that way) or they trickle away.

So Tuesday, into the office. Get some intelligence that confirms my suspicion that the coup isn’t really working and won’t take. (And also do some thinking; two things are missing: nobody from the CPSU in the Extraordinary Committee and where are the planes flying low and loud? In short, not everyone is on board.) Get a phone call from the Globe and Mail. Tell the reporter (I was new to the business then – I trust reporters a lot less now) that the coup is a bust and will fail.

Wednesday. Front page of G&M – Foreign Affairs says um ah maybe yes maybe no; so-called Defence Department “Expert” by name (sneer sneer) is so inexpert (sneer sneer) as to say no one expected the coup attempt and it will fail (hah hah, what a doofus!) Even made Quote of the Day: if the coup succeeds I will eat my hat. On my desk a stack of telephone messages. Phone the Director, phone the Director General, phone the ADM, phone the Minister! But, by Wednesday, it was clear that the coup had failed and that it was wrapping up. So I phone nobody.

Thursday lots of phone calls from various media outlets asking for interviews because I’m the only (later learned that I wasn’t actually the only) “expert” (not so sneery now) in the whole Canadian Government to have got it right. Asked my boss what to do. He said (wisely) that, since the then foreign minister had said that Canada would probably have to recognise the junta, I would be smarter, from a career perspective, to keep my mouth shut.

So, dear comrades, that’s why

  1. I’m not world famous today but
  2. I am living happily on a solid government pension.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere for you younguns but I don’t know what it is.

(Pre Internet so I can’t find the Globe and Mail reference. Have the cutting somewhere; if I find it, I’ll post it.)


LET’S GO TO WAR WITH RUSSIA! Don’t think I can improve on Fred here: “The standard American approach to war is to underestimate the enemy, overestimate American capacities, and misunderstand the kind of war it enters”. (PS Fred was in Vietnam. So he’s been there, done that). The Saker earlier used the analogy of “suicide by cop“.

SANCTIONS. A Brussels think tank reports the share of Chinese goods in Russia’s imports increased from 5% in 2000 to 25% in 2014 and has continued to grow, while the share of EU-manufactured products has decreased from 70% to 55%. I wouldn’t expect the EU to be able to recover much of that market share even if the sanctions were dropped tomorrow. Russia, to put it simply, has no reason to trust anyone in the West ever again on anything: at any moment, some accusation can be manufactured.

ECONOMY. From Bloomberg, not an especially Russia-friendly source: “Russia’s economy has been slow to rebound, but things are perking up” and “Russia’s food producers have beaten an import ban and kept inflation in check“.

ARMOURED TRAINS! Who’d have thought they were still around?

NEW NWO. More data points. The presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran met; then Putin met with the President of Armenia (obviously working on the Karabakh problem.) Then we learn that Moscow plans to make the Hmeymim air base in Syria permanent. Then it turns out Russia is using a base in Iran to bomb Syria (permission to cross Iraq too). (Interesting historical bit). Then a Chinese military delegation visits Syria and talks of cooperation (Chinese report). A lot of data points for two weeks, eh?

DOPING. Read this. Even through the CBC’s bias you can see how completely the IOC rejected WADA’s report. Sue them, says this guy. Individually. Make them spend the rest of their lives in court.

LEAKING AND HACKING. Edward Snowden worked for the NSA and, appalled at what he saw, leaked. 50 analysts at the DIA, appalled at what they saw, leaked and a US Congressional hearing has validated their charges. Drone operators, appalled at what they’ve seen and done, leak. Assange has almost directly said that DNC insider Seth Rick, presumably appalled at what he saw, was the DNC leaker. And now more NSA leaks. More disgusted insiders I suspect. But Snowden disagrees: he thinks Russia did it to send this message: “This leak is likely a warning that someone can prove US responsibility for any attacks that originated from this malware server.” In short, Dear NSA, we know exactly what you do to interfere around the world and we can prove it. NSA ought to be airtight; I sometimes think that the most underrated reality of the Obama period is out-and-out incompetence across the board. For example: US statement, Russian response.

WOBBLES. British PM May phoned Putin and agreed relations should be improved; reiterated by the Foreign Minister. Let’s not get excited but don’t forget a couple of years ago how “isolated” Putin was, how he was “failing” and how Russia was “reeling”. Reality does eventually bite and its bite is strong.

TURKEY. Erdoğan and Putin met: here’s the press conference. Note Putin’s mention of a program of “cooperation for 2016–2019“; in short, it has to be earned. Syria is being discussed; it will be a long and hard discussion but, in the end, it’s Ankara that will have to come most of the distance. Especially if the story that Erdoğan is planning to go to Tehran is true: neither Moscow nor Tehran will support Daesh (nor any of the “moderate” Daeshlets Washington is always pretending to discover) nor will they turn on Assad. The new line is that both Moscow and Tehran are necessary in Syria. Ankara continues to burn bridges: Washington must chose between Ankara and Gülen.

CRIMEA. Whatever it was that whoever it was was trying to do by attacking Crimea, failed.

FROM LAPUTA’S KITCHENS TO YOU. So, just after learning that Breedlove’s “intelligence” was cooked up by neocon deskwarriors, we find that CENTCOM cooked intelligence data on Daesh.

SYRIA. “Dramatic Rescue! – 44 Staged Pictures. A kid. “The British government is… funding media operations for some rebel fighting groups“. No connection, of course.

MSM AND YOU.The unfortunate fact is that when a massively important story is reported only once, with virtually no follow-up, the impact may be minimal. Only a small slice of the public encounters that initial account, and the lack of any repetition would eventually lead even those individuals to forget it, or perhaps even vaguely assume that the subsequent silence implied that the claims had been mistaken or later debunked.”

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

Living the Dream – Latvia, NATO and the EU

This essay is an attempt to discuss the consequences of Latvia’s membership in both NATO and the EU. I chose Latvia simply because I found data for it. Membership in either standard bearer of Atlanticism, let alone both, would have been unimaginable for any citizen of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic and, for many, a glorious dream.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

Because Latvia joined it first, I will consider the NATO half of the dream first. Latvia became a full member in April 2004 (“From now on, 26 Allies will be joined in a commitment to defend each others’ security and territorial integrity. This is the strongest, most solemn commitment nations can undertake“).

There is a widespread meme that the new NATO members eagerly sought membership because of popular concerns about Russia but the truth, in Latvia at any rate, is that public opinion required some time (and lots of American GONGOs) to develop the preference. And while EU membership followed a referendum, NATO’s did not. In an opinion poll in 1998 we find a slight preference for neutrality “In Latvia, the larger group of population believe that the neutrality best guarantees Latvian security and stability (29%). The second option – NATO and EU membership together (26%) while NATO membership is the third option (15%). 10% of Latvian population believe that EU membership alone can guarantee stability and security for Latvia.” The same poll found that if there were to be a referendum on joining NATO in the three Baltic states “Latvia has the lowest number of the supporters for the country’s membership in alliance: 37% would vote for, 29% against, while 34% of Latvian population has not decided yet.” Not much enthusiasm there.

But Latvia has been a member for a decade now and one has to wonder whether Latvians feel secure. One would think that Article 5 of the NATO treaty gave as indisputable a security assurance as could be wanted. “Collective defence means that an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies.” So, if Russia were to attack Latvia it would be the same as if it had attacked the USA, Canada or Germany; there would be no need for American, Canadian or German troops to actually be there. And yet there are always calls for more money to be spent and more troops to be stationed. And the recent NATO summit agreed to do so. Outsiders with weapons to sell Latvia have their interests in playing this up as when a BBC program in February 2016 had Russia invading Latvia. Propagandists keep the pot boiling: “Counting Down to a Russian Invasion of the Baltics“, “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank: Wargaming the Defense of the Baltics“, “If Russia Started a War in the Baltics, NATO Would Lose — Quickly“, “Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is part of a broader, and more dangerous, confrontation with the West“; War games show NATO’s eastern flank is vulnerable. To deter Moscow, the United States will need to deploy heavy armor on a large scale, a new study says.” And so on. There are sceptics, to be sure: “Why on Earth Would Russia Attack the Baltics?“, but the subject is omnipresent and the Warsaw communiqué is full of Russian “aggression”, “destabilising actions”, ” military intervention”, “provocative military activities near NATO borders” and so forth. (And, lest we forget profits: “We welcome Allied efforts to address, as appropriate, existing dependencies on Russian-sourced legacy military equipment”). Indeed, NATO is back in business at the old stand.

All this scare-mongering is having its effect. A recent Gallup poll finds 42% of Latvians seeing Russia as a potential threat. A 2015 poll finds 69% of Latvian speakers seeing a threat from Russia. We see these op-eds: “The society has fear“. “Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Bear?“, “Latvians fear elections could let Kremlin in by back door“, “Panic in Latvia: Trump Will Hand Ukraine, Syria and the Baltics to Putin“. “Russia’s Annexation Of Crimea Worries Baltic Nation Of Latvia“. “Baltic Russians could be the next pawns in new cold war“. In short, Latvians are becoming nervous.

Nonetheless, the cynic who really thinks about it understands that the foreign troops are wanted not because of some perceived immediate Russian threat, but because of a lack of confidence that, when it came to it, the NATO allies would stand up. Indeed, we have a poll that suggests just that: “NATO’s European Allies Won’t Fight for Article 5“. Another poll finds that not even Americans are very willing to fight for Latvia. So, the deployments probably owe less to the “Russian threat” than to the “indifference threat”. We are reminded of George Kennan’s prescient remark: “We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way“.

It has to be said that the comparison between Crimea and Latvia (or the other two Baltic states) is rather forced. A thousand years ago, Crimea was clearly part of the Byzantine/Rus culture – indeed Vladimir the Great, ruler of Novgorod and later of Kiev, was baptised in Khersones in Crimea. Conquered by the Mongols in the 1200s, it became an appanage of the Ottoman Empire and was reconquered by Russia in 1783. The Russian Black Sea Fleet was then founded and has been based there ever since. In 1954 Khrushchev transferred Crimea from the RSFSR to the Ukrainian SSR (illegally it appears). When the USSR broke up, the Black Sea Fleet remained under treaty between Moscow and Kiev together with up to 25,000 Russian soldiers and sailors. In the 2014 referendum well over 90% voted to (re)join Russia and the Russian troops provided security; there was no “invasion”. As to the Donbass: when the president you voted for is ousted, the party you voted for is declared an enemy, the central government sends the army at you and your home is renamed the “Anti-Terror Operation Zone“, there’s no need to invent a “Russian invasion”. Latvia’s history is quite different: it has been ruled by Germans, Poles, Lithuanians and Swedes until absorbed by the Russian Empire about the same time Crimea was reacquired. Despite a substantial Russian minority, it has never been considered part of the “Russian lands” and there are no Russian troops there. So the parallels are very contrived – propagandisticly contrived – indeed. And, if Latvians are really concerned that a crafty Moscow may use the Russians inside Latvia as some sort of lever, then they might consider giving them full citizenship. (An idea, it is interesting to note, that seldom occurs to the reporters who write pieces like this one: “Latvia, with a large minority of Russians, worries about Putin’s goals“).

So, one could make the case that one part of the Latvian dream – NATO membership – has not in fact given the Latvian population a greater sense of security. Indeed, an effect of the non-stop anti-Russia campaign may be that Latvians feel less secure today than they did when they were neutral.

And, as a further irony, Latvian soldiers are back in Afghanistan: under a different flag this time but with much the same results.

European Union

Latvia became a full member of the EU in May 2004 after a referendum (“We welcome a country that naturally belongs to us and we trust, that Latvia as the others future Member States, will enrich and strengthen the European Union. Welcome home, Latvia!”) . It joined the Eurozone in January 2014 (no referendum then: support only about 20%).The source for most of what follows is “Latvia in the EU – Ten Years Later. A Different Latvia?” which is a fairly detailed assessment of the first decade’s experience. The purpose of the authors is described: “We intend to take a snapshot of the moment when Latvia joined the EU, and compare it with a snapshot of the country taken today”. It was published in May 2014, too early to show any effects of Eurozone membership; neither had the refugee crisis bitten. A very quick summary of the various tables follows.

In the period defence expenditure declined and the armed forces became smaller. (We’ll see what effect the Russia scare will have on them). The unemployment rate improved, got a lot worse and is now about where it started. The service sector is larger, the industrial sector smaller, labour productivity significantly up, applications for high-tech patents down. The crime rate is much improved across the board with the exception of drug offences. The population has decreased (the authors don’t tell us how much). There are significantly fewer non-citizens, more foreigners live in Latvia, tourism is up quite a bit, the proportions of native Latvian speakers (73%-71%) and native Russian speakers (27%-27%) unchanged. The number of students is down, but those studying abroad is up, the proportion of the population with higher education has increased. The average net salary has better than doubled and GDP per capita has increased from about half the EU average to about two-thirds, the poverty rate is significantly down, agricultural production is significantly up. The population is a little more satisfied with the “quality of democracy” but trust in governmental institutions (including the EU) is down a bit, electoral participation is down nearly ten percentage points but the traffic police expect bribes significantly less. Life expectancy is up about 3 years, infant mortality is down, generally speaking health seems to be better (but a significant increase is reported for malignant tumours) although both doctors and hospital beds are down. Latvia is either “greener” or it isn’t, depending on what indicator you choose to emphasise. The authors sum it up as “in the course of ten years Latvia has become more secure and prosperous.”

So, altogether in the decade, there have been improvements in Latvia’s economic situation, health and crime. But these are not dramatic and, of course, there is no way of telling what the numbers would be if Latvia had taken some other course (cf Belarus, for example). The declining esteem in which institutions are held (trust in government down from 28% to 20%, parliament 20% to 15%, EU itself 39% to 36%) and drop in electoral participation (national from 72% to 59%, municipal 53% to 46%) argues a certain lack of enthusiasm for present circumstances.

The authors mention the population decline but don’t give the numbers. Wikipedia tells us the population in the EU decade dropped from 2.277 million to 1.995 million. It was 2.651 million in 1991. That’s a drop of a quarter; a significant decline indeed. “Demographic disaster” some say, “We are dying out“. If I were Latvian, I’d worry about that a lot more than about imaginary Russian invasions: at this rate, if they really wanted Latvia’s beaches, all the Russians have to do is wait fifty years or so to peacefully occupy an old folks’ home surrounded by vacant real estate.


It would appear that there are good reasons to argue that NATO membership has made Latvians feel less secure because they have been sucked into the NATO anti-Russia hysteria. In the ten years of EU membership there have been real gains albeit none very dramatic. There is no way of knowing where Latvia would be today had it adopted a different membership package.

So, it while it would certainly be wrong to call the dream a nightmare, it’s not proved as happy a dream as was no doubt expected. Improvements to be sure, but none of them dramatic and all overshadowed by depopulation (Latvia and Bulgaria are the only countries in the world with a smaller population today than in 1950.)

The downstream costs of the Euro and refugees – both direct consequences of EU membership – as well as pressures for greater defence expenditure from NATO are as yet uncalculated.

So, a bit of a wash altogether.




Russia the Eternal Enemy Quotations

Caspar Weinberger issued a powerful warning that American policy makers, in their preoccupation with NATO’s expansion, may be missing the fact that Russia has a truly ominous enlargement initiative of its own – ‘dominance of the energy resources in the Caspian Sea region.’ As he observes in the attached op.ed. article which appeared on 9 May in the New York Times… ‘If Moscow succeeds, its victory could prove much more significant than the West’s success in enlarging NATO.’

Center for Security Policy, Washington, 12 May 1997.

Russia Is Finished Quotations

This style, which has obviously been introduced to the ruling structures by representatives of law-enforcement organizations, has three features: crude simplicity of problem-solving methods, decisiveness in the implementation of these methods, and highly negative consequences of this for the country’s economy.

Vladimir Gryaznevich “It’s Not What You Do, But the Way You Do ItSt. Petersburg Times, July 13, 2004


RUSSIA-CHINA ALLIANCE. Beijing announced a Russia-China naval exercise in the South China Sea next month (“routine”, “not directed against third parties” of course). As I’ve said before: the lasting effects of a decade and a half of neocon influence (apart, of course, from lots of losing wars) will be the MoscowBeijing alliance and the increased power of Iran.

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. Clinton “knows” he did it but the DNI doesn’t, confirmation bias says another, not Russia says Debka. But it diverts attention from what the e-mails actually reveal, doesn’t it? I am going to collect PDS examples all month, but I can’t resist this one from July: Russia’s war on drugs is hurting America“; maybe you can follow the logic, I can’t. In the meantime enjoy Mark Sloboda’s list of individuals and political parties that Putin secretly controls.

OLYMPICS. The IOC rejected the blanket ban of Russian athletes. I haven’t bothered to follow the story. Seen it before: Milosevic, Libya, brown water. My default position nowadays is that it’s all lies.

“WINNING THE INFORMATION WAR”. I’ll leave Paul Robinson to dispose of it: he’s politer. Danielle Ryan mocks. But you don’t try to silence the other guy if you’re winning the argument, do you?

BREEDLOVE. Speaking of the “information war”, I told you the “evidence” of Russia’s “invasion” was rubbish. “The newly leaked emails reveal a clandestine network of Western agitators around the NATO military chiefThe emails document for the first time the questionable sources from whom Breedlove was getting his information. He had exaggerated Russian activities in eastern Ukraine with the overt goal of delivering weapons to Kiev.The leaks are here. One of his sources was Phillip Karber who had a (swiftly backtracked) connection to this idiocy.

CRIMEA. Outrageous of Trump to say Crimeans are happier in Russia? Gallup (28) agrees and so does a German polling organisation. And plenty of others too; French parliamentarians the latest. Not Nuland, though: it’s a “reign of terror“.

UKRAINE AND HISTORY. The Polish Parliament has declared 11 July a “National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Genocide committed by the Ukrainian nationalists on citizens of the Second Polish Republic”. At last an important Jewish publication notices who the heroes of new Ukraine are. And a little reminder of how many of them died in their beds in Canada.

TURKEY. The purges continue. We have the interesting statement from the US DNI that “Many of our interlocutors have been purged or arrested” in Turkey. The US general in charge of the area is also concerned about the effect on the “level of cooperation and collaboration”. There are rumours of coming agreements between Ankara, Moscow and Tehran. We will learn more when Erdoğan and Putin meet next week. My take on the coup attempt here: in brief, it was a real coup; Ankara blames Washington; it’s a big geopolitical change: I think Ankara has recalculated costs and benefits. The official line is that the pilots who shot down the Russian fighter were plotters and they have been arrested. Is Davutoğlu being set up to be the fall guy?

SYRIA. US weapons found in a warehouse in Aleppo – including TOWs which are not trivial weapons. All the CIA’s man in Syria knew when he took the job was that Syria was “extremely complex”; nevertheless he set up a scheme to overthrow the government.

THE EMPTINESS OF FORMER FLAPS. Slobodan Milosevic has been cleared. Once Newsweek’sFace of Evil“, found guilty by “human rights” organisations and a child killer, he spent years on trial and died in jail. Ah well! Mistakes happen and that was all a long time ago. Albright and Clark made some money, Hillary Clinton landed “under fire”, the US got a big base, criminals got a whole country and jihadists got some training camps. So it all worked out in the end. The very same people are telling you the very same stuff about Putin. Check out the links, Dear Readers, unlike the NYT I don’t make stuff up: yes, Putin is Newsweek’s current monster, yes, “human rights” organisations (the same one, amazingly enough) find horrors in Crimea and yes, they say child murders. Same same. Milosevic died 10 years ago and now we learn. (“Murdered” is, of course, just a crazy “conspiracy theory”).

ARMENIA. Was that another failed colour revolution? Andrew Korybko, whose guidance I follow on such matters, thinks it may have been. Anyway, it seems to be over. Maidan may be the last of the series.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer