HOPE AND CHANGE. And within a few days of each other, too. Trump: “we will pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past. We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments… Our goal is stability… We will partner with any nation that is willing to join us in the effort to defeat ISIS… we will seek shared interests wherever possible.” Putin: “We are ready for a serious discussion on building a stable system of international relations… we affirm the principles of justice and mutual respect in international affairs… I certainly count on joining efforts with the United States in the fight against real rather than fictional threats, international terrorism being one of them.” A chance for a real meeting of minds and intentions, don’t you think?

PUTIN’S STATE OF THE UNION SPEECH. English, Russian. I suppose the theme would be this: “In recent years, we have had a hard time, but these trials have made us even stronger”. It’s true, Russia has survived – and prospered – despite Western sanctions and low oil prices. And it is undeniably stronger and in a better position, internally and externally. Its opponents are stumbling and facing internal revolts: even the neocons understand that “the triumph of the West is over” (although they still blame others – less “softness” or “retreat” and everything would have worked out). Putin’s foreign policy position is still the same: “We do not want confrontation with anyone. We have no need for it and neither do our partners or the global community. Unlike some of our colleagues abroad, who consider Russia an adversary, we do not seek and never have sought enemies. We need friends. But we will not allow our interests to be infringed upon or ignored.” As usual, the main emphasis was on domestic matters – a rather dry exposition of things done and things to do. What did catch my eye were these numbers: IT exports ($7 billion) were half the value of arms exports ($14.5 billion) which were lower than agricultural exports ($16.2 billion): the economy is diversifying and the sanctions and counter-sanctions have helped it to do so. Another great achievement – mostly unknown to the West because it doesn’t fit the story – is the turnaround in mortality figures: the fertility rate is now (2015) higher than the EU average and the infant mortality rate slightly better. But I was surprised to hear him saying that the defence industry must produce consumer goods: “conversion” had few successes in the Gorbachev period. But, generally speaking, the speech was dry and businesslike, as these things are: a record of what’s happened and what’s planned. The general impression being that the worst is over.

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. My latest collection is here. I must say the “fake news” nonsense is more ridiculous than anything yet: the idea that Putin is controlling what Westerners think is more than merely ludicrous. The truth is that consumers of the WMSM are tired of being surprised by everything that happens: they’re searching for more reliable information elsewhere. Meanwhile the WaPo is trying to slither away from its PropOrNot story.

OIL. We appear to have an agreement to cut back oil production which will raise prices and they say Putin played a key role in getting agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran. So, if it’s true, as some say, that Washington got Riyadh to drop prices to hurt the “Gas Station Masquerading As a Country”, then it’s another success for Moscow.

PRESSTITUTES. (I am indebted to Paul Craig Roberts for this evocative epithet). There’s a new boss in town and it will be amusing to watch the WMSM change its tune. The UK Independent may be out in front with “We have to accept that Assad will win in Syria – and the West should be ashamed of how we drew the conflict out” and This is why everything you’ve read about the wars in Syria and Iraq could be wrong“. (I stress that neither Dejevsky nor Cockburn has changed, it’s the fact that they are published – and with such headlines – that suggests the editors are changing the message). The WaPo, however, just digs its hole deeper: “How a 7-year-old Aleppo girl on Twitter became our era’s Anne Frank. (A more sceptical – and researched view here.) Schadenfreude is not admirable, but it is enjoyable: I look forward to bankruptcies.

SYRIA. Amusingly, after a phonecall from Putin, Erdoğan “clarified” his remark that the purpose of his incursion into Syria was to overthrow Assad: not at all, just to fight Daesh. Large sections of east Aleppo have been liberated (video; watch it, I doubt your local “news” outlet will show it) and Russian combat engineers are clearing UXOs; two Russian medics were killed when a field hospital was shelled.

UKRAINE. Independent again – allegations by an insider of enormous high-level corruption.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer