DUMA ELECTION. Official results are that the pedestal party keeps its strong majority but lost a bit; the communists (KPRF) gained a bit. Not too different from four years ago. A new bubble in the stagnant swamp of Russian politics appears: a new party – New People – makes it into the Duma. The KPRF has two main campaign points: the ordinary guy is doing poorly (especially because of the pensions issue) and Moscow isn’t tough enough on the world stage. I am amused that, immediately, Putin spoke to the government and said that Russia’s greatest enemy was poverty; and he held another meeting on socioeconomic development yesterday. The harder foreign policy is happening anyway. As to communist performance, it’s interesting that young Americans view communism and socialism more favourably too. Maybe Marx isn’t as dead as I used to think he was.
FRAUD? Gordon Hahn enumerates the ways in which the ruling party (United Russia aka “pedestal party”) finagles its way to victory. Not precisely cheating I think, more the use of power and position to “persuade” people where their “true interests” lie. But the big issue is that e-voting was used and there is a dramatic difference in Moscow City: before the e-vote was added in, a lot of opposition wins; after, very few. BUT, before we get excited, we’re not talking about a few strategically-distributed e-votes: there were nearly two million e-votes as against 1.7 million paper votes; I believe there are important differences between the two types of voters: I would expect most KPRF voters to prefer paper to e-votes and Establishment supporters the reverse. Anyway, a re-count is promised and the communists (who lost most) are protesting. BBC coverage (essentially pre-written) typical of Western coverage. See below.
WESTERN TAKE. Bernhard shows that the NYT can see some of the failure but still doesn’t get it. Western-sponsored fake liberals won’t sell in Russia. See below for one reason and next one for another.
DEMOCRACY A LA RUSSE. Intelligent piece by Natylie Baldwin on Russian attitudes: social justice is a big requirement. Americans make a big thing about freedom and let the chips fall where they may. Or they used to anyway. For Russians security is more important. As she says, a lot of what you hear about Russian “lack of democracy” is really just saying they’re not as we like to think we are.
NAVALNIY. A probe into the Navalniy organisation’s activities is opened. Closer to a treason charge?
MEETING. Gerasimov and Milley met in Helsinki last week; it is reported that Milley asked for permission to use Russian bases in Central Asia. Can’t see Moscow agreeing: Washington cannot be trusted; maybe occasional use on a case-by-case assessment.
IS THIS A GOOD IDEA? Apparently officials in Sakha are looking at a proposal to populate the region with “resurrected” mammoths. Sounds pretty nifty but we have to consider the possibility that, after the oohs and ahs, comes the screaming.
SHANGHAI COOPERATION ORGANISATION. Long anticipated but highly significant – Iran is now a full member. Without getting too MacKinderish, this is an important piece of the “pivot area“.
SUBMARINES ET AL. Can’t afford them, can’t build them, can’t crew them. And, anyway, they’re years and years away – it will be a different world then. But it does reveal Washington kicking Europe to the curb. Another of Washington’s gifts to Europe are the current energy problems: despite the Guardian’s effort to blame them on Russia, the delays and obstructions of NordStream are one of the causes. Europeans aren’t willing to be dragged into the new cold war with China, either. Europe is talking; but talk is easy and the Europeans never seem to get past the empty grumbling: cutting loose from Washington’s diktat and forging a genuinely independent foreign activity is a very difficult step. But they do keep getting brutal reminders that Washington doesn’t really care. In that respect the new regime is even more blatant than the old: Trump’s line was pay your bills and I’ll maybe listen; Biden/Harris don’t even pretend to listen.
MEETING. Putin and Erdoğan meeting today. Much to discuss.
FROM LAPUTA’S KITCHENS TO YOU. China Is a Declining Power and US has to get ready for war. Russia’s a “declining power” too. The philosophers of Laputa don’t seem to have noticed that neither has declined much since 2000, have they? Litvinenko! Skripalmania! Projection and deflection.
WESTERN VALUES™. Plans to kill Assange and the key witness lied: never mind, keep him in jail, Meng released with charges forgotten. CSIS welcomes the “Michaels” back. Hard to keep up.
AMERICA-HYSTERICA. And now, after all the damage was done, we discover, what many of us knew, that it was entirely fake. This guy, however, is surprised. But will any others wake up?
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer