RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 9 JULY 2020

RUSSIA AND COVID. Latest numbers: total cases 707K; total deaths 10843; tests per 1 million 151K. Russia has done 22 million tests (third after China and USA); among countries with populations over 10M it’s second in tests per million and of those over 100M first. RT reports a survey finding that most Russian physicians are sceptical of the official numbers. Its counting rule is strict; a looser rule would create bigger numbers: I don’t take any numbers very seriously. (Vide chaotic UK counting.)

CONSTITUTION. Passed comfortably. The ads I saw varied between happy families and – the one projected on the US Embassy facade – in 1993 we were yours and now we’re ours. Sums up the main changes. As to the term reset many argue that it is designed to kill any succession in-fighting (or foreign fiddling): even if Putin quits after this term, he can still come back. I still see it as a cheap trick.

ESPIONAGE. Ivan Safronov was arrested on Tuesday and charged with espionage. The claim is that he passed information on weapons sales to the Middle East and Africa to Czech intelligence which then passed it the the USA. He denies the charges. He had worked for several newspapers covering space and defence and had been hired by RosKosmos in May. The authorities say they had been watching him for several years (from which we can deduce that the information passed on was probably false – the Russians are very very good at this). Meanwhile it has been officially denied that an exchange is been considered for Whelan (which, I guess, means that it either is or isn’t).

MH17 TRIAL. Hops along to its pre-ordained conclusion: “‘The relevant records relate to the years 1986 and 1987,’ the judge claimed. ‘In that light, the court does not see how interviewing this witness [Konashenkov] can contribute to the question of where a specific missile mentioned in that record is located‘”. So we’re not going to look at the provenance of the conveniently discovered missile bits; wouldn’t suit the guilty verdict. A farce.

DEJA POO. Let’s make up a story that 1) keeps the Russia enemy theme going 2) can be used to harm Trump 3) will stymie negotiations to get out of Afghanistan and 4) fool the simple-minded. Should run for a week or two and then we’ll come up with something else. Meanwhile, in the real world, survivors or families are suing US companies that paid protection money to Taliban.

ICEBREAKERS. Russia starts an even bigger one. Russia dominates the icebreaker business.

WADA YA KNOW. Der Spiegel dares to question the US/Canadian Russia mass doping story.

MORE SANCTIONS. The UK has just revealed new sanctions against Russians (and others). Moscow says it will retaliate.

THE EMPTINESS OF FORMER FLAPS. Shrinks or slammer. Once the West’s darling. Do you think HRW will get excited about this “sinister reminder of the Soviet legacy of punitive psychiatry“?

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Every time I think the insanity has reached the top, somebody shoves it up another notch, the “Lincoln Project” with this absurdity. But then that is surpassed by some Democrat politician: “Wakes up every morning, goes to be every night trying to figure out how to destroy American democracy.” And these people are spectacularly ignorant: Russia is bulging with new infrastructure; even the Moscow Times reports it. Americans get in a tizzy over their enemy du jour but when they kill him (Qaddafi, Hussein) or jail him (Milosevic) they calm down. How much more frenzied can they get?

NEW NWO. Interesting poll about COVID: about half the Europeans polled thought the EU had been irrelevant; 60% said they thought less of the US than before. The pollster concluded that “Europeans have lost faith in the United States in its power and competence to lead the world”.

BIO-LABORATORY. In Tbilisi. What’s the story? Russian Foreign Ministry expresses concern. Russian disinformation. Perfectly OK says Washington. Sinister purposes say other Americans. Even creepier says investigative reporter. I don’t know, but if the purposes are benign, why can’t they be done at home? Fauci-funded gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses in Wuhan?? USAF admits to collecting Russian genetic material?? Some serious questions here, I think. Certainly one could understand Moscow and Beijing taking a mistrustful view.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Nordstream advances. Washington contemplates sanctions, Berlin, committed to it, bites back. Merkel says Europe has to prepare for a future in which USA not a world power. Schroeder says the sanctions would mark the “definite termination of the Transatlantic partnership“. Copenhagen gives approval for the final bits. An important defiance of Washington’s diktat.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 25 JUNE 2020

RUSSIA AND COVID. Latest numbers: total cases 613K; total deaths 8605; tests per 1 million 124K. Russia has done 18 million tests (second after USA); among countries with populations over 10M it’s second in tests per million and of those over 100M first. Scientists claim to have a vaccine; tests should be complete by end of July. Putin address: improving but still some bad regions; description of what government did; extension of some special payments. GDP fell 12% in April when “holiday” was begun.

OIL WARS. Seem to be pretty much over. But futures are still low for Saudi Arabia and US fracking.

TAX. For two decades Russia has had a flat income tax of 13% . A brilliant move when introduced, it ended widespread tax evasion almost instantly. But in the speech above, Putin said it will be bumped to 15% for people with incomes over 5 million RUR (US$71K). But still simple and pretty flat.

VICTORY PARADE. Held on the 75th anniversary of the first one. Video. Can’t get these numbers out of my head: Germany invades June 1941; three years later Operation Bagration annihilates Army Group Centre; a year later Soviet soldiers sight-see in Berlin. Has there ever been so quick a turnaround? (Well… Napoleon invaded Russia June 1812, the Russian Army entered Paris March 1814 and invented the bistro. Seems to be a historical lesson there…)

VICTORY. A VTsIOM poll shows 95% think that it was the most significant event for Russia of the 20th Century and 69% think the most significant event in Russian history.

SANCTIONS. “We are not asking for sanctions to be lifted. We are simply improving our resilience and self-reliance.” And so they have; and the newest US sanctions on Syria will be a gift to Iran.

VISAS. It is reported that the simple e-visas for visitors will be extended to all Russia starting next year. ABCA probably excluded.

A WIN. Two years ago the Russian authorities ordered the social app Telegram to give up its secrets; it refused; the authorities ordered it shut down; people kept using it; the authorities have given up after a sort of compromise.What’s the difference? Well, in our part of the world the social media doesn’t resist. Yet another of the many reversals of behaviour I’ve seen since I started in the business in 1984.

INFRASTRUCTURE. Moscow Metro has got quite a bit bigger in ten years.

VIDEO. Short video of Russian scenes and scenery.

PAUL WHELAN. Sentenced to 16 years for espionage; reports that an exchange is being worked out.

WEAPONS. A new Borey-A SSBN Knyaz Vladimir accepted into the Navy. Several new Army weapons shown at the parade. A Ukrainian looked at the equipment on parade and and asked his countrymen how they can believe they’re facing that army in the Donbass; sure would notice one of these things.

GAPS. MacDonald uses a car crash to show the attitude gap between Russian elites and the “little people”. But he has been arrested and could face 12 years. We’ll see.

SKRIPALMANIA. “5 Facts BBC’s ‘The Salisbury Poisonings’ Forgot to Mention“, “the only word for that is a miracle“. Propaganda for stupid people with short attention spans.

LESSONS OF THE WAR. Putin’s piece published in National Interest. Official text English, Russian. Apart from an unwillingness to acknowledge that territorial acquisitions in 1939 and 1940 were made to gain strategic space, I see nothing wrong with it. All of it was mentioned by AJP Taylor years ago.

HACKING. Don’t need cunning Russian hackers when incompetence gets the job done.

START. Talks began in Vienna with a childish stunt by the American side. I wouldn’t expect any results: the Americans are fatally deluded. As for the Russians: “We don’t believe the U.S. in its current shape is a counterpart that is reliable, so we have no confidence, no trust whatsoever“.Russian has a word for that: недоговороспособны and it’s characterised US behaviour since at least this event (in Obama’s time). Can’t make an agreement with them and, even if you do, they won’t keep it.

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. From Canada. Short version: everything we say or do is true; Putin the opposite. (“Mueller indicted Mr. Prigozhin and the Internet Research Agency for ‘waging information warfare against the United States of America'”. Oopsies! ) From the Baker of the Maidan Don’t waste your time on the original, Mark Chapman has done the work for you.

BELARUS. Colour revolution in progress? For what it’s worth Lukashenko was in Moscow for the parade and is confident it has been thwarted.

WESTERN VALUES. Hashim Thaci indicted for war crimes. NATO gave him a country.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 11 JUNE 2020

RUSSIA AND COVID. Latest numbers: total cases 502K; total deaths 6532; tests per 1 million 95K. Russia has done 13.8 million tests (second after USA); among countries with populations over 10M it’s second in tests per million and of those over 100M first. Moscow city lockdown and ID pass system ended on Tuesday. Russian developers register a drug that may help alleviate the worst symptoms.

COVID COUNTING. The usual suspects are convinced that Russia’s lying (the accusation is a pitiful attempt to cover up the failure of the “two best-prepared countries“) but I don’t believe anything Western outlets say about Russia. But Moscow city has published numbers that may explain things. 15,713 deaths in Moscow in May; three-year average is 9914; therefore excess of 5799. They calculate 2757 had COVID as the main cause of death but it was present in 5260 deaths. Therefore, as I suspected, it’s a counting issue: died of versus died with. In any case, even at the larger number, the deaths are far fewer than elsewhere. A new theory to add to the others is that there are fewer old people, thanks to high mortality rates in the Soviet days, and Russians don’t generally put them in nursing homes (the source of large proportion of deaths in Western countries.)

CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM. Now set for 1 July. Wikipedia has a summary article and tells us that the vote will be a yes or no on the whole package. Some advertising billboards. Polls suggest the package will pass but not by big numbers.

GENETICS. Putin has told the government to ensure creation of Russian-made laboratory and scientific equipment for research in genetics. Remember the report that the USAF was collecting genetic material of Russians? I think COVID has made Moscow and Beijing rather thoughtful. Teheran too.

OIL WARS. Oil futures are creeping up. OPEC+ has agreed to extend the production cuts to the end of July. So, I guess if there was some attempt by Riyadh to crush US shale and Russian oil, it failed. Who won? Russia did: prices are back in Russia’s comfort zone. The Power of Siberia pipeline has sent 1.58 billion M3 of natural gas to China in the last 6 months. The icebreaker LNG ship is on its way to China via the Northern Sea Route.

MONOPOLY. With Dragon’s successful docking, Russia has lost its monopoly on taxi service to the ISS.

PERSONALLY I think Moscow is commenting with considerable restraint as the USA learns about colour revolutions first hand. Read this from the Atlantic: “The Trump Regime Is Beginning to Topple”. “Regime”. Wow, eh?

START. Russia-US talks will begin in Vienna on the 22nd. Beijing says it won’t be there. The US side is so deluded that I doubt much will happen. (BTW the US “super duper missilejust failed.)

THE DEATH OF IRONY. Russia Sends More Troops West, Challenging U.S.-NATO Presence Near Borders.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. “Before Donald Trump, Russia Needed 60 Hours To Beat NATO—Now Moscow Could Win Much Faster” Forbes tells us. The assumption is that Russia would grab the Baltics and stop there. I know the author is just shilling for the weapons makers but, if you assume your audience is really stupid, you become stupider – a race to the bottom of the mine.

MH17. It looks as if all the prosecution has is stuff from Kiev and Bellingcat. So much for Kerry’s “we observed it”. So will the court find the defendants not guilty or continue with the farce? Speaking of “our values and way of life”.

CHINA IS THE NEW RUSSIA. You’d think NATO would be busy enough but it’s time to add China to the enemy list: the threat posed by China to “our values and way of life”.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. A Republican caucus group from the legislature of “the greatest force for good the world has ever known” has decided that Russia should be named a “state sponsor of terrorism” and hit with “the toughest sanctions ever imposed“. But it doesn’t accuse Moscow of fiddling elections; I guess that particular sector of the delusion is reserved for the other side of the aisle.

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. Sure, we don’t need evidence – there’s the “playbook”.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Germany rejects US extraterritorial sanctions against Nord Stream 2; a German politician suggests Berlin may respond with counter-sanctions. Trump orders a troop pull-out (would be about a quarter of the US troops in Germany).

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 28 MAY 2020

RUSSIA AND COVID. Latest numbers: total cases 379K; total deaths 4142; tests per 1 million 66K. Russia has done 9.7 million tests (second after USA); among countries with populations over 10M it’s fourth in tests per million and of those over 100M first. The vaccines tests are reported to be going well. Peskov is out of hospital. Karlin thinks that it’s out of control in Dagestan. Doctorow argues that Russia has learned from China the value of segregating COVID sufferers in special hospitals leaving the others free for other problems. Restrictions continue to be lifted.

VICTORY DAY. Postponed because of COVID-19, the Moscow parade is scheduled for 24 June, the anniversary of the 1945 parade. The Immortal Regiment marches a month later.

OIL WARS. Russian gas shipments are down and US LNG isn’t looking good. US oil production is falling and a shale oil company has gone bust. Saudi Arabia has cut its production. Oil futures are below $40. The guessimates are that US shale needs about $60, Saudi Arabia about $80 while Russia is OK at $45 and can get by on $25 for some time. So Moscow’s still smiling, even if a little grimly.

PAUL WHELAN. A man of somewhat mysterious background, was arrested in Russia a year and a half ago, charged with spying and has been in jail since. Finally he’s been tried in a closed session; the prosecution wants him put away for 18 years, he insists he’s innocent. What I find interesting – and very singular – is that the several countries of which he is a citizen aren’t making much of a fuss. Which they usually do, even when they’re economical with the truth; vide spy rock and Bellona.

OPEN SKIES. In 1955 President Eisenhower suggested the idea; Moscow rejected it because it was an “espionage plot”. It finally happened in 2002 and 35 countries signed on to it. Given that 26 of the 35 are NATO members it could hardly be said to advantage Russia. Nevertheless Washington is dropping out: Russia of course is at fault: it’s using it to “collect information”. (To someone who’s been in the business since the Soviet days, this reversal of positions is a continual and amusing fascination.)

MORE RUSSIANS. Moscow has granted citizenship to nearly 216 thousand people in the first quarter of 2020; about two thirds of them from Ukraine. It’s a little known fact that Russia gets a lot of migrants: in 2019 it was fourth-largest (but does KSA really qualify?); second ten years earlier.

INFRASTRUCTURE. Sapsan trip. Always fascinated how clean and shiny everything is nowadays.

LAWSUITS. He said it was a joke, Putin disagreed and fired him. Now the former head of Chuvashia, Mikhail Ignatiev, says he’s going to court. Good luck with that. The lawyer representing Sturgess and Rowley wants the Skripals to be brought to court to testify. Good luck with that.

FOOD. Putin recently said that Russia was now self-sufficient in “basic food products”. I take that to mean that, while there may not be as many bananas as you might want, Russia produces enough calories in the right balance. I have no difficult believing him: it’s been coming. A stunning achievement – when I lived there about half the food was imported and farming was in a desperate state. The Russian counter-sanctions on food were a brilliant move. Thought they were. (Got RI wrong, though.)

FAUGH! The coolest plane ever is to be replaced by another blah flying wing.

FAKE NEWS. Something or other nefarious Russian thingee alleged in Czechia. Rubbish I say and I don’t bother to pay attention. Korybko does and here’s his take. Something or other in Germany. I’ve given up taking these accusations even partly seriously after Skripal, Russiagate, Litvinenko, MH-17 and all the rest. The burden of proof is on the West doubly so because it’s lied so often.

NEW NWO. A German poll on the post-COVID world gives a very interesting result: 37% consider close relations with the US more important than close relations with China; 36% see it the other way round. Almost exactly balanced and after all the anti-China propaganda too. The wheels are coming off the wagon.

THE AMERICAN DREAM. Is just fine. And as confident as can be.

NOT ON YOUR “NEWS” OUTLET. A UN study finds that 81% of civilians killed in east Ukraine were killed by Kiev forces shelling them. Peculiar “Russian invasion” isn’t it?

BIDEN-UKRAINE. Remember this photo of Biden at the head of the table? the guy sixth on his left is the so-called President of Ukraine. A recording of Biden giving Poroshenko his marching orders has appeared. Not as if we didn’t already know this from Biden’s own lips. A Ukrainian judge has ordered he be listed as alleged perpetrator of crime in Prosecutor’s firing. No mention of Hunter B though. So far.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 14 MAY 2020

RUSSIA AND COVID. Today’s numbers: total cases: 250K; total deaths: 2305; tests per 1 million: 42K.Russia has done six million tests (second after USA); among countries with populations over 10M it’s fifth in tests per million and of those over 100M first; one could therefore expect it to find new cases – most of which have little effect. Mishustin is back at work, Putin’s spokesman is not. Putin, in a virtual meeting, announced the end ofthe “paid holiday period” and a gradual lifting of lock-down in a report on the state of play. There’s a report that Russia is undercounting: actually it’s taking a hard approach while some other countries take a soft approach (the from vs with question.) Which of course means that the numbers at worldometers.info are so varied in methodology as to be practically worthless…

OIL WARS. Prices creeping up to about $27. This piece argues that Riyadh has made a really big mistake and enumerates the ways it has. The US industry is in trouble.

RUSSIA INC. The IMF says, in PPP terms, Russia’s economy passed Germany to become number five.

BROWDER. His story takes another hit – as it always does when someone takes a real look at it. The German press council rejected his complaint against Der Spiegel saying his narrative lacked proof.

NORDSTREAM. After a long trip from Nakhodka in which it kept pretending to change its destination, the pipe-laying ship Akademik Cherskiy is now ready to complete Nord Stream 2. In an amazing coincidence, the Russians hack Merkel’s cell phone. Get in line Russia!. (Bernhard catches the NYT in another sloppy anti-Russia assertion.)

RUSSIAN YOUTH. It’s a widespread delusion, strengthened by the narrow circle Western reporters talk to in Russia, that “the government’s anti-Western agenda and reports of widespread corruption are turning young Russians against the leader.”Levada has done a survey of Russian youth and that’s pretty hard to find; in general they’re not far off their parents: a bit more liberal but also a bit more nationalist. Perhaps the most interesting result was that a solid majority thought Russia was not European. Robinson discusses. He wonders why so few show much support for “‘classical’ civil and political liberties”. My guess is that 20 years of observation of Western practice of these noble ideals has soured them.

PROVOCATIVE. US and British warships enter the Barents Sea, promoting regional security and stability, while building trust. I think a Russian-Chinese naval trip to the Beaufort Sea would get us all some stability and trust, don’t you?

WESTERN VALUES. Given that NATO likes to blather on about how it “promotes democratic values“, it’s amusing to see that Freedom House says that Hungary, Poland, Hungary, Montenegro and Turkey don’t make the cut as “consolidated democracies”.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Transcripts from House hearings have been published. Here they are. Nothing. It was all lies. Remember Crowdstrike and its “proof” the Russians hacked it? When they’re under oath, nothing. Remember all those people on TV saying there was strong evidence of collusion? Under oath, they said there wasn’t any. Schiff knew this and said it anyway. Justice Department drops case against Flynn – entrapment.More to come. But that doesn’t mean that the shills have given up: Russia will steal the next election; or will China? But does Beijing want Trump or out? (Wouldn’t it be fun if Moscow and Beijing disagreed on whom to put into the White House?)

DOES THE NYT PLAGIARISE RUSSIAN REPORTERS? You decide.

WHY IS THE US IN SYRIA? Washington longer bothers to prettify – the boot is straight to the face. ISIS? Forget ISIS says Jeffrey: “My job is to make it a quagmire for the Russians“. An amazing confession, in the same class as “We lied, we cheated, we stole“.

DOUMA. More leaked documents expose OPCW corruption – the whistle-blower was not, as we we told, some marginal guy, but one of the leaders of the inspection team. The official line requires us to believe that this smashed through a steel reinforced concrete ceiling and landed peacefully on a bed.

UKRAINE. A police official wants to know the names, addresses and phones of all the Jews in Kolomyya, a city in western Ukraine; “most of its Jews were murdered by February 1943 at the Szepariwice forest outside the city and the Bełżec death camp.” “Is Ukraine a Hub for International White Supremacist Fighters?” wonders a piece published by Harvard. Remember when it was Putin disinformation about nazis in Ukraine?

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 30 APRIL 2020

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

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 16 APRIL 2020

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

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 2 APRIL 2020

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

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 19 MARCH 2020

(NOTE: away in Feb and recovering from  a severe cold — not/not CV.)

PUTIN 4EVER. (Russian Constitution text.) In January Putin suggested some amendments to the Constitution to be discussed and put to national vote in a referendum. Which is, I suppose, close enough to the amending procedure set out in Chapter 9. A commission was quickly set up and amendment suggestions came in. The final ones reflected the rather traditionalist flavour of Russia – marriage is between a man and a woman, a reference to God, indissolubility of Russian territory and some social guarantees. (Wikipedia list.)

Two proposals reflect what Russia has learned in the three decades since the first version. Russian legislation will now take primacy over international law and office holders cannot have dual citizenship or foreign residency permits. This is understandable: the original text had been written at a time when Russians were much more hopeful about the outside world than they are now: grim experience has taught them that “international institutions” are another stick to beat them with. (And, given the chaos and destruction that the self-proclaimed “Rules-Based International Order” has produced, even laudable.)

Among the changes suggested by Putin and approved was the removal from Article 81.3 of “for more than two terms running”; in short two terms only for a president. So what we were looking at was a slightly less president-dominated system with a two-term president, the end of naïve expectations about the “Rules-Based International Order” and some declarations to make conservatives happy.

(I do not now remember why the term limit was in the Constitution – my vague memory is that Western advisors insisted on it so as to reduce dictatorship possibilities. There was, I remember, much fear of the Communists coming back in those days. But, a term limit is not normal world practice and most countries don’t worry about it – MacKenzie King was PM of Canada for more than 21 years.)

So far so good and all reasonable enough and sensible.

Enter Valentina Tereshkova. Since we’re changing the Constitution, said she, then we should start the presidential term counting clock all over again. In other words, when Putin finishes this term in 2024, he can run twice more. Did she think this up on her own or was she put up to it? No one seems to know. Putin addressed the Duma, said it was OK with him if the Constitutional Court approved. Which it did. At this point it is reasonable to observe that it is hardly “constitutional” if you rule that any president can restart the clock by making a few twiddles to the Constitution, is it?

The full package has not yet been approved by a referendum on 22 April but all indications are that it will be: a recent poll showed that a solid majority was quite happy to have Putin stay in office. Meretriciously the voters will be asked to approve the whole package or nothing.

So, what to say about all this? There are, as usual, several theories. First are those who have said from the beginning that Putin would contrive a way to stay on forever. Well, there isn’t much of a retort to them except to to wonder why he didn’t just amend Article 81.3, is there? Another theory holds that Putin feels he has to stay on because only he can manage things in the dangerous times of the decline of the Imperium Americanum. In his speech to the Duma he referred to Roosevelt’s breaking the two-term custom, adding: “When a country is going through such upheavals and such difficulties (in our case we have not yet overcome all the problems since the USSR, this is also clear), stability may be more important and must be given priority.” Well, that decline is undeniably dangerous and there will be many crisis points; but it will take several dangerous decades and Putin certainly won’t be here when the power earthquake is finally over. And there’s always some crisis, somewhere. Another idea is that what he has really done is leave the possibility of running again thereby avoiding a lame duck period before he does go in 2024. Maybe: Putin is coy in this interview.

But, altogether, the manoeuvre leaves a bad taste in the mouth: manipulative, shabby, slipshod, legal only in the most pedantic sense, arbitrary, second-rate and poorly thought out. Very disappointing to someone who thought Putin did not want to be the Turkmenbashi of Russia.

If the system that he and his team spent 20 years building doesn’t work without him, then it doesn’t work.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 30 JANUARY 2020

KREMLINOLOGY. I’ve been at this business for a while and one of the things I’ve learned is that “Kremlinology” is a waste of time: speculating about who’s who and the meaning of personnel appointments is worthless. Why? Because we simply don’t know: we don’t know why X was given that particular job and not another, we don’t know how X and Y get along together and how they interact with Z. In fact we really don’t know very much about X, what he thinks, why he thinks it and how he reacts to new things. It’s all a black box: we see some of what goes in and what comes out and have little idea of what happened inside the box. (We don’t know these things about our own countries – was Freeland promoted or demoted? – so what makes anyone think that we know these things about far-away Russia?) So it’s hardly surprising that Kremlinology has been a complete bust every move, including Putin’s latest, surprises its practitioners. So I don’t waste my time speculating: I don’t know enough; nobody does. (The only worthwhile legacy of years of wasted effort is the HAT.)

NEW GOVERNMENT. That having been said, the new government seems to have a lot of ministers who are specialists in their ministry’s field. We’ll see how that goes. MacDonald gives names and backgrounds, Saker says the “Atlantic Integrationists” are weakened, Doctorow suggests it’s connected with the feeble implementation of the National Projects. I say it’s a step towards The Team’s replacement with younger people who will carry the project on. I still expect that Putin will leave with a successor firmly positioned. Tennison, who met him way back when, thinks so too.

CONSTITUTION. Robinson doesn’t see such a huge change. The usual outlets say Putin forever! (Can we pause a moment for a brief think? If he wanted power forever, all he had to do was drop clause 81.3. Nah, turn off brain and outgas: “some” “reportedly” and so on.) The other thing that we have learned is that Putin wants to make the two term restriction absolute.

DEMOGRAPHICS. A fall in the net population (immigration failed to compensate) because of the decrease in the number of women of reproductive age (fallout from the hard times of the 1990s.) Natural increase is expected to resume in three or four years. This month Putin announced a substantial increase in programs to encourage births and support families.

CORRUPTION. The (ex) policemen who framed Golunov will be charged. Not truly a case of protest forcing a change (although there were strong protests) but the system operating properly pretty quickly.

SANCTIONS. Russia now exports beef. (!)

FAKE NEWS. US Army liberated Auschwitz says the US Embassy in Denmark and Der Spiegel. Israel knows who did it, though. The US won the war; Hollywood told us so.

ANNIVERSARY. Saturday, as I calculate it, marked the day when the US and its minions had been in Afghanistan twice as long as the Soviets were. Record year for bombing, too.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. “There is … a strong possibility that all Steele’s material has been fabricated.” I always thought it was a complete fake with no Russian input (except maybe Skripal’s). I reiterate: there was no Russian interference and no collusion. It’s a phoney story to explain away Clinton’s failure.

ASSASSINATION. Did Pompeo threaten Russian and Chinese officials with assassination? Misreported say I (Veterans Today and Pravda.ru – not a winning combination); don’t see it in the actual speech.

NOT ON YOUR “NEWS” OUTLET. UNSC meeting on OPCW fakery. Thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. You decide.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. Schiff: Trump made a ‘religious man’ out of Putin. Pillow man, another of Schiff’s nuggets. Reflect that his present career is based on his “knowledge” of Putin.

US DOLLAR. I’m interested that The Economist gets it (as the Mean Sea Level of conventional opinion, what it chooses to cover is significant): “But it is only under President Donald Trump that America has used its powers routinely and to their full extent, by engaging in financial warfare… They have in turn prompted other countries to seek to break free of American financial hegemony.” If it’s used as a weapon, it’s no longer convenient. This man predicts the collapse of the USD this year. Russia has half a trillion’s worth in its FOREX and gold kitty.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. UK approves limited use of Huawei; Pompeo not happy.

RUSSIA/CHINA. Donald Trump must split up Putin and Xi, the new odd couple. Not only does the author not realise that train left the station a long time ago, he’s not even sure where the station is.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer