RUSSIAN ISOLATION. Remember when Russia was “isolated“? Today it seems to be the essential hub: just in the last seven days Japan, Germany and Turkey have visited and USA has phoned. Patience, persistence, performance, principle; they take a while but they kick in eventually.
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have been ruled an “extremist” organisation; there is still an appeal period. This seems a very wrong decision, and one based on a rather poorly-written law, as the conservative Fr Vsevolod Chaplin points out, with bad potential. On the other hand, I can well understand Russian concern about the true intentions of any US-based entity these days.
TRUST. The Levada survey of most trusted politicians has, as usual, Putin in the lead in the 80s, followed by Defence Minister Shoygu (who has been number two for many years) and Foreign Minister Lavrov. And why not? Westerners can only dream of such competency. PM Medvedev is in the 40s; I’m not sure that that means much: someone has to be blamed for things that go wrong.
CORRUPTION. Prosecutor General Chayka produced some data on corruption in 2016: 13,774 cases involving 15,207 people (both numbers down a trifle from 2015). He said that 97% of corruption crimes were detected (how did he detect the undetected examples?) The Moscow City Court sentenced the former head of the anti-corruption (!) department of the Interior Ministry to 22 years; subordinates received from 4 to 20 years. Western commentators often assume things should go faster than they do: the FSB started this back in 2010 and the case was formally opened in February 2014; the trial itself lasted about a year.
SANCTIONS. A UN official, who has been examining the matter, praises the Russian government for taking “appropriate measures to insulate the population from the most adverse impact of the sanctions“. He estimates that Western countries lost more over the three years of sanctions and counter-sanctions: US$100 billion to Russia’s US$55 billion. This corresponds to what I (December 2015 for example) and many others not in Western governments, thinktanks and media outlets expected.
CHECHNYA. The NYT, quoting Novaya Gazeta, had this story: “Chechen Authorities Arresting and Killing Gay Men, Russian Paper Says“. Mark Ames, who holds to a quaint belief in the value of research, tells us this about the source. Hmmm…. НГ, NYT and Alekseyev. Not very reliable sources say I.
CHINA-RUSSIA. A Chinese official delivered a message to Putin from Xi. It should be read in full: it is a strong statement of the closeness and permanence of the Moscow-Beijing relationship. Any fantasies in Washington that the two can be separated should be abandoned.
NORTH KOREA. There is a solution to the dilemma and it has been around for some time. Beijing calls it the “double suspension” (Pyongyang stops missile and nuclear tests and Washington and Seoul stop big military exercises near the border) and, with Moscow’s support, has put it on the table at the UNSC. The problem is that Washington, ever the virtuous one, has always refused to do so. But things are happening in the background and we shall see. By the way, I am fascinated to see this in the WaPo: “The U.S. war crime North Korea won’t forget“; it actually dares to suggest that Pyongyang’s point of view should be considered. Likewise “Let’s stop calling North Korea ‘crazy’ and understand their motives” and “Kim Jong Un Is a Survivor, Not a Madman“. All I can conclude is that the Party Line either hasn’t been formulated or hasn’t yet been sent to editorial offices. Normally, there is only one valid POV.
AMERICA-HYSTERICA I. “They went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.” And it still is part of the excuse package: “I was on the way to winning until the combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28 and Russian WikiLeaks“. The ever complaisant MSM followed its instructions (“we are not fake news!“) and we have the story. But it’s crumbling into incoherence; there’s no there there. Perhaps in a year or two the Democratic Party will stop blaming its catastrophe (more than 1000 elected positions lost in 8 years) on others. It will probably take more defeats, though, before it does: it’s pretty heavily invested in the anybody but us meme.
AMERICA-HYSTERICA II. Well worth the read – shows the Russian hacker story began with vague accusations during the Ossetia War and its fundamental shakiness; now it’s “a multibillion-dollar boondoggle, employing shoddy forensic techniques and politicized investigations”.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer