RUSSIA AND COVID. Today’s numbers: total cases: 106K; total deaths: 1073; tests per 1 million: 24K. Why so few deaths per cases? One theory is that Russia has done more tests than most large countries so the denominator is larger; another is the the idea that the BCG vaccine has some effect; Russophobes (of course) say that Russia is lying (as if it could cover up lots of deaths given today’s social media). Moscow, where half the cases are, is now, after a very unsteady start, tracking people electronically. Putin has extended the lockdown (with full pay) until 11 May. The PM has it.

POST COVID. Russians turn out to have quite a bit saved: 16% say they have enough for a year or more; 25% for 3-6 months; 29% for 1-2 months; 30% report none. The quoted piece sees this as a disaster but, when you add in the support measures the state has provided during the shutdown, low health, education and housing costs, Russians will come out of this better off than many other countries. (Thanks to Jon Hellevig).

RUSSIA’S DOOMED AGAIN. COVID this time. And oil.

OIL WARS. The bottom has dropped out of the business. Full tankers lined up; negative futures prices; current price about $17. Lots more Saudi oil on its way to the USA. The agreement to cut production doesn’t seem to have had any effect. Did MBS launch it in a fit of pique? As China’s economy powers up again, it will need oil but apparently it’s buying it mostly from Russia.

BLAME. The egregious failure of the USA and its minions is going to lead to a lot of accusations: we already see Chinadunnit in full cry in the two supposedly best prepared countries. China, Russia and Iran are all busy spreading disinformation says Pompeo and “disparaging” US efforts. If the story that Fauci gave money to the Wuhan lab to research bat coronaviruses is true, there will be an embarrassing back blast.

THE GREAT PUTIN DISAPPEARANCE II. “Putin Has Vanished, but Rumors Are Popping Up Everywhere” says the NYT. Memory lane trip time. For a modest retainer I will provide the West’s intelligence agencies and media access to the top-secret, well-hidden and known-to-only-a-few-of-the-initiated information on his activities. (BTW, we need a new word in English to cover the concept of “stupid”.)

HISTORY. A large church to “unite all Orthodox Christians serving in the Armed Forces” is nearly finished outside Moscow. (I do wish they’d stop translating “храм” as “cathedral”). RFE sneers; Moscow Times melts down. Four halls will commemorate three warrior saints and a famous icon from the 1812 war. As I’ve said before, unlike some countries that prefer to airbrush their history or turn it upside down (as did the USSR, of course) modern Russia attempts to face it all: Stalin plus the Smolensk Icon; it all happened, why pretend that half of it didn’t?

MILITARY STUFF. It was revealed that the T-14 Armata MBT had been tested in Syria. Of course they never tell us if it just drove around in the dust and heat or actually shot at things. Syria is a big test-bed for Russian weapons. Paratroopers made a 10,000 metre jump in the Arctic. (Video) The Soviets practically pioneered large-scale parachute operations and today the Russian Airborne are still the only one that routinely drops AFVs and is not, therefore, merely light infantry when it hits the ground.

RUBBISH. The so-called Gerasimov Doctrine is back; sort of. Rubbish and projection I say.

DEATH OF IRONY. “Well, what we have seen is that Russia maintains military presence close to NATO borders and NATO countries, including in the Black Sea.

ELBE. A Putin-Trump joint statement, which is something I guess as we move into the Russians-are- falsifying-history, we-really-won-it and the wrong-side-won season.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Looks like Flynn was set up by the FBI.

GOOD QUESTION. Why does the US have so many biolabs close to Russia? Georgia. Ukraine. Armenia. It’s not as if the safety record for the ones in the US is so good.

UKRAINE. For your amusement: “The Peril of Polling in Crimea: Is It Possible to Measure Public Opinion in an Occupied Territory?” Unsurprisingly Ukraine’s Foreign Minister concludes it isn’t. Meanwhile Saakashvili’s back. And land sales are on.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer


First published Strategic Culture Foundation

Surgical masks. They cost a trivial amount of money, tens of millions can be easily and safely stored for a long time. Eleven years ago, during the H1N1 pandemic (aka “swine flu”) the Center for Disease Control released from its Strategic National Stockpile “personal protective equipment including over 39 million respiratory protection devices (masks and respirators), gowns, gloves and face shields” This amounted to 25% of the total. According to the NYT these were not replaced. Trump can’t be blamed for that one. Nor can he be blamed for the failure of Belgium to replace stocks. Nor for Canada’s unpreparedness. Nor for the world-wide shortage. Nor can China be blamed.

Incidentally, the CDC says that the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, in the twelve months after April 2009, produced “60.8 million cases (range: 43.3-89.3 million), 274,304 hospitalizations (range: 195,086-402,719), and 12,469 deaths (range: 8868-18,306) in the United States“; the CDC’s worldwide death estimate was: “151,700-575,400”. There was no worldwide lock-down for that. But the curious reaction to COVID-19 is another story and so is the explanation why there is such a huge range in estimates. My story is about the humble mask and the West’s reputation for competence.

The CDC was competent in 2009, as its account of its response to the discovery of the sickness shows. What we see today is far from competent and, in this respect, I recommend reading Stephen Walt’s essay The Death of American Competence. As he rightly points out, one of the pillars of American power was “an image of the United States as a place where people knew how to set ambitious goals and bring them successfully to fruition.” He speculates on the reasons for the decline, suggests several, but he knows it has been a long development. For centuries the West has been the place where things worked, where everything was invented, from where the world was run. Yes the West had its values which had their attractiveness – and one must never forget its tremendous killing power – but a large part of its mojo came from its reputation for getting it right. They say that the West’s military omnipotence took a hit from which it never recovered when the Japanese swiftly threw European power out of the Far East; I think its reputation for competence will take a fatal hit from COVID-19.

And a very visible hit. Only six months ago the Global Health Security Index, looking at “195 countries”, “34 indicators”, “six categories” and “140 questions” rated the USA number one in ability to cope with a pandemic, giving it a score of 83.5; the UK was second with 77.9; of the top 15 all were Western except Thailand (6th) and South Korea (9th). Western competence was assumed. China, by the way, was 51st with 48.2. What we must now call a fantasy built on an undeserved reputation collapsed with the real life test of COVID-19.

Which brings me back to the humble surgical mask: never mind that mask manufacture has been outsourced to China – so has just about everything else; never mind the fact that in terms of national security a warship’s worth of surgical masks would be more useful; consider stockpiles: where are they? No country seems to have much. And today we have reports of Western countries pirating face masks and other PPE from each other: the USA from Germany and France, US federal government from US states, Czech Republic from Italy, France from the UK; supposed allies are keeping them to themselves. March’s must-steal item was toilet paper, in April it’s masks.

But that’s still not the end of the face mask story.

COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus. There are several types of coronaviruses that cause human respiratory ailments some of which are deadly, some of which are mild. Many versions of the common cold are caused by them. They mutate and can pass from animals to humans. Human-infecting variants have been studied since the 1960s.

They spread from person to person in two main ways. 1) By touch: you touch an infected doorknob, a railing, a surface, get some viruses on your hands, touch a mucous membrane – eyes, nose, mouth – the viruses get inside you and get to work taking your cells apart to make more of themselves. 2) By droplets: someone who is infected emits droplets of saliva or mucous which carry the viruses and they get into you and start replicating. Coughing and sneezing spread these infectious droplets amazing distances but breathing or speaking put them out there too. The third thing to know is that a coronavirus infection may be contagious before the sufferer has symptoms. None of this is specialised knowledge; everybody who has had a cold knows it.

So, how to defend yourself? Before answering, it should be understood that there is no 100% defence this side of complete isolation and an NBCW suit. But you can improve the odds. 10% is better than nothing, 20% better than 10% and so on. It’s a matter of reducing the chances of the infected spreading it and the uninfected getting it. If each person infects three others (R0 of 3), then a process that reduces that to two others is an enormous improvement (that one infected person in 10 days would produce, in theory, 20,000 infected at three and 500 at two; dropping it from 3 to 2.5 saves about 15K; dropping it to 2.75 is worth about 10K.) It’s about playing the odds: a small reduction in the R0 has enormous effects over time.

So, given that we knew in January that COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus and given that that was about all we knew then, what would have been the advice to best play the numbers? Not complicated: wear gloves, wash your hands, don’t touch your face and wear a covering over nose and mouth to reduce droplet emission and intake. Will this be 100% defence? No, but it will improve the odds. And, given the possibility that it might be infectious before you know you have it, then everybody should start doing this right now. This is very simple stuff: it’s not curing the disease; it’s not working out the genome of the virus; it’s not tracing the history and route of the infection; it’s not creating a vaccine – that’s complicated. Glove, wash, don’t touch and mask is simple stuff anyone can do to bring down the R0. Oh, and don’t forget that gloves and masks get dirty so keep them as clean as you can. Something is better than nothing.

So why weren’t we told to mask up right away? Lots of hand washing advice; good but that’s only half of it.

But in the last week, all of a sudden, we’re being told to mask up. Don’t have a mask? The CDC now gives you instructions on how to make improvised masks. From an old T-shirt even. A day later Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer tells us to mask up. A California county will fine you if you don’t. You can be dragged off a bus in Philadelphia if you don’t.

That’s today. But, at the WHO, it’s still yesterday: “only useful for healthcare workers and patients who test positive“. Yesterday, masks were no good: (17 February) “skip mask and wash hands“; (27 February) “And when they’re not used correctly“; (29 February) “They Might Increase Your Infection Risk“; (5 March) “If it’s a regular surgical face mask, the answer is no“; (13 March) “not the case with the viral particles“; (31 March) “homemade masks, which could be of inferior quality and essentially useless“. This piece in Reason Magazine sums up the confusion as of 1 April: “conflicting, confusing, and sometimes transparently disingenuous advice“.

So what’s different about April? It’s true that there is some suggestion that the virus is mostly transmitted through emission and that it seems to be most infectious before the symptoms appear but these were known to be possibilities in January. So why no advice to try any kind of face covering at the beginning? Not very competent.

Perhaps there’s a clue: “It can reduce the risk of some transmissions, but doesn’t take the risk to zero.” Most of the anti-masking “advice” was of that nature: proper masks, let alone home-made masks from T-shirts or coffee filters, are not a 100% protection. Bureaucracies attract and promote stupid and industrious people. “Stupid” is not really the right word, many of these people have high enough IQs, but they are “stupid” because they mistake mere activity for solving the problem. They are always terribly busy wrestling with enormous problems while the smart and lazy person, having solved the problem when it was small, has his feet on the desk. Bureaucracies like busyness and they reward it. Busybodies are often perfectionists – the smart and lazy knows that the best is the enemy of the good. Could it be that our experts heard “are masks a perfect defence?” when they should have been answering the question “can masks improve the odds?” At any event, it’s taken three months for the “experts” to understood that even if 100% is unobtainable, 75% or 50% is much better than nothing at all. Even if it’s the bottom of an old T-shirt. How many lives were lost, hospital beds filled because the “experts”, seeking 100%, achieved 0%? People start to wonder. Then there was the explanation that people were told not to mask because of the shortage of masks. Maybe so, but why not T-shirts, coffee filters and other improvisations in January? Perhaps the reason is the general death of common sense in the face of “experts”. Or perhaps the fear of being sued if someone in a home-made mask catches it anyway. But, whatever the reason, it’s not very competent.

In the COVID-19 crisis, in truth, real competence is found in places somewhat east of “the West”.

The humble surgical mask reveals that the West is no longer competent.

2020 will be the year that the West lost its mojo.



COVID AND RUSSIA. Overall totals to today are 28K infected, 232 dead. This raises the question of why the death rate in Russia appears to be lower. One theory is that the widespread Soviet-era tuberculosis vaccinations (BCG vaccine) may have had an effect – just how or why is unclear, but there seems to be a statistical relationship. A test of its effectiveness is beginning in Australia. Over half the cases are in Moscow but every region except one reports cases: most of Sunday’s infections in Shanghai came from a flight from Russia the day before. A pass system was introduced in Moscow yesterday but not very successfully (and many standing in line waiting to be checked). The new hospital in Moscow Region is up and running. A vaccine prototype is undergoing human testing (including by the developer). The Victory Parade is postponed. Meanwhile Russian military specialists are working away in Italy. (This, by the way, is why NBCW units were sent – not to spy, or for “gaining access to Italy’s health and military system, which is part of a larger NATO structure“, or to create “A hybrid lie. Or a hybrid truth” or be useless or whatever else NATO flacks imagine).

OIL WARS. After a lot of phonecalls – especially between Putin, Trump and Riyadh, OPEC plus Russia plus USA have agreed to a production cut. How long will the agreement last? Your guess – it probably depends on whether the USA can deliver or will deliver: Scott Ritter thinks it can’t. On the other hand, Washington has had a chance to learn its lesson – shale oil needs price about twice what it is today back down to about $20/bbl; one producer has already gone bust. COVID has so greatly reduced demand that the cuts may have little effect anyway.

TANKS. The latest variant of the T-90 – new turret, bigger gun, new defensive equipment – is being delivered to the Tamen MR Division of the First Guards Tank Army.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. US Attorney General Barr just said the Russia collusion probe was a travesty, had no basis and was intended to sabotage Trump. All true of course. May we take this as a sign that at last (at last!) Durham is ready to go with indictments? Or will it prove to be another false alarm? There’s certainly a lot to reveal: A recent investigation showed that every FISA application (warrant to spy on US citizens) examined had egregious deficiencies. It’s not just Trump.

MEANINGLESSNESS. Remember the Steele dossier? Now it’s being spun as Russian disinformation. So we’re now supposed to believe that Putin smeared Trump because he really wanted Clinton to win? Gosh, that Putin guy is so clever that it’s impossible to figure out what he’s doing!

COVID BLAME I. Back in the day I read a certain amount of Soviet propaganda about the wicked West. And, while it was quite often over the top, pretty monotonous and probably – judging from what ex-Soviets have told me – not all that effective in the long run, it usually had, buried deep inside, a tiny kernel of reality. Western anti-Russia propaganda, on the other hand, is nothing but free-association nonsense. Take the NYT’s latest: the headline alone tells you it’s crap: “Putin’s Long War Against American Science: A decade of health disinformation promoted by President Vladimir Putin of Russia has sown wide confusion, hurt major institutions and encouraged the spread of deadly illnesses.” Another difference was that Soviet propaganda at least ran on the assumption that the Soviet system was preferable: this, on the other hand, is a pitiful attempt to blame the US COVID failure on somebody else. Nonetheless, this is not rock-bottom for the NYT’s anti-Russian fantasies: that target was hit a couple of years ago with “Trump and Putin: A Love Story“. (But, the goalposts keep moving: if you accuse a Dem of Trumpish grabbing, you’re probably a Putinbot.) I guess it will only get more: “The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born; now is the time of monsters.”

COVID BLAME II. Maybe it’s not Putin or Xi who’s to blame: maybe it’s your own propaganda outlet: “VOA too often speaks for America’s adversaries—not its citizens… VOA has instead amplified Beijing’s propaganda.

PROBABLY MEANINGLESS COVID FACTOID. 75% of reported cases are in NATO countries.

DISAPPEARING UP YOUR OWN FUNDAMENT. “Why do we find ourselves in a situation where an EU-funded body set up to fight disinformation ends up producing it? There are two main reasons… ” Sure, they’re good enough reasons but I think the real reason is that they are paid well to make this stuff up: these are not honest mistakes. Anyway, read the source yourself and ask whether you are convinced.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer


COVID AND RUSSIA. As of today there are about 3600 cases and 30 deaths, most in Moscow City. Why so much lower than other places? Some reasons: Moscow ordered travel and flight closures earlier than Western countries; it does not appear to have run down its stockpiles of PPE (as the USA and, apparently, most Western countries did); the war-time/emergency preparedness of a country that knows the cost of not being prepared and the fact that anti-Russia sanctions have made the country very self-sufficient. (As even the NYT admits. A few weeks ago, though, in NYT-land, Russia’s economy was faltering. Hard to keep up with the Party Line it is.) That having been said, Moscow is pretty much locked down and other cities are following suit. Putin laid out the government’s program last week. In essence: a lot of help for the little guy and more taxes on rich people who keep their money outside Russia. In today’s address to the nation, he extended the paid holiday to 30 April. The Constitutional referendum is postponed. Entry has been banned to foreigners, an isolation hospital is being built for Moscow and the military are building more around the country. Russia has enough PPE and ventilators that it can spare them for other countries. Several potential vaccines are being tested. So, perhaps after thinking it had escaped it, Russia is bracing but it seems to be much better prepared than the Western average. Helmer discusses the state of play.

SOFT POWER. The brutal truth is that the “leader of the free world” took 500,000 test kits out of Italy, tried to bribe a German pharmaceutical company to move to the USA and advertises easy immigration for doctors. NATO and the EU have done little to help their worse affected neighbours. Meanwhile Russia, China and Cuba – all bad boys to the “Rules-Based International Order” – are providing assistance. (And to the USA itself! PR? of course it is, but it’s also a teaching moment which the WaPo doesn’t get.) The propagandists leap to their keyboards: Beware of Bad Samaritans” is a classic. It includes the lie that 80% of the stuff Moscow sent Italy was useless (Bryan MacDonald takes the effort to trace the lie back to the the fake newsmakers at the Atlantic Council/”Integrity” Initiative) and manages the logical leap of accusing China and Russia both of giving useless stuff and giving too little of it. Liars have no imagination: all they can do is project their own behaviour.

NEW NWO. Post COVID, things are going to be a lot different. I offer Stephen Walt’s “The Death of American Competence” for your reflection. Pompeo’s boast only six weeks ago that “The West is winning” looks hollow. This 2019 rating of countries best prepared to deal with a pandemic hasn’t worn well (USA and UK first, Russia and China in the middle). 2020 – the year the West lost its mojo.

OIL WAR. Oil is about US$25 a barrel. The story in brief: Russia refused a production slowdown, Saudi Arabia (but why?) started pumping like mad, COVID reduced demand and here we are. Have Putin & Co decided that now is the time to bring down the USA? Or at least its fracking business? Or is it a power play to teach Washington a lesson so it will stop interfering with Russia’s market? Anyway Russia is in a position to outlast either Saudi Arabia or the US frackery.

TRIALS. One of Mueller’s “triumphs” was indicting a St Petersburg company for interference on behalf of the Russian government. (Weepy Maddow flashback). A safe stunt because the Russians wouldn’t show up in court. But they did. The prosecution has dropped the case. Why? Bluster, bluster, but the short answer is that there was no evidence. Let Bernhard, who got the story right from the beginning, take you through it. Oh, and the owner of the company is going to sue. In a similar situation, the judge in the MH-17 trial has demanded the prosecution 1) say whether it did receive the claimed US evidence 2) show it to the judge. Leaks tell us that the JIT has never seen it; not surprising because there isn’t any (that’s an easy deduction: if the US really did “observe it” as Kerry claimed, we would have seen it now.) Sometimes Western courts work the way they’re supposed to.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. No COVID holiday here: Putin’s virus! Sow discord! Disinformation! Russian sources pushed conspiracy! Disinformation! Hacking of our minds! And not just the USA: Disinformation! Sow panic in West! Weaken Western society! Online disinformation assault! Any deviation from Big Brother’s latest can only be Russian disinformation.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Europe sends COVID aid to Iran, Washington adds to the sanctions.

THE EMPTINESS OF FORMER FLAPS. WaPo admits Crimeans happy to be in Russia. WaPo!!?

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer


(Miscellaneous comments from pieces dealing with Russia I’ve collected. Most of them anonymous or with pseudonyms. They are chosen to illustrate either rabid hostility to everything Russian or stone-dead ignorance of present reality. I post from time to time when I have enough, spelling mistakes and all.)

Russia sends a planeload of masks and whatnot to the USA. This is the response from  Markos Moulitsas, self described as “Founder of Daily Kos, Co-founder Vox Media. Author of The Resistance Handbook: 45 Ways to Fight US President Trump”.

The US is now a client state of Russia.

This is far, far past mere McCarthyism which at least had a basis in reality. “Crazy” doesn’t really do it any more, does it?