RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 11 APRIL 2019

https://patrickarmstrong.ca/2018/11/22/the-maybe-basket-awaiting-further-data/IRONY. Putin attended the opening ceremony of the Mercedes-Benz assembly plant in Moscow Region. In his Russian-built Aurus. His previous ride was a Mercedes. I suppose he would eventually have wanted a Russian-made limo, but I can’t help thinking this is another consequence of sanctions.

GPS. If (if) Russian technology really can spoof GPS signals, (if)… then… well… practically everything NATO does or has depends on GPS signals… Without Aegis and GPS, all NATO has left are bayonets, submarines and an expensive building.

RUSSIA/CHINA. It’s clear that a very consequential result of two decades of (stupid and obvious) PNAC machinations is that Moscow and Beijing, not sitting around waiting to be targetted, are drawing ever closer. I’ve been waiting for Beijing to become more active in the front line – so far it’s been letting Moscow take the heat – and it seems that it has. The reports of Chinese soldiers in Venezuela appears to be false, but Chinese aid is certainly arriving and Beijing has pointedly said that Washington does not own Venezuela. Protecting investments certainly, but the larger geopolitical purpose that both know they’re on Washington’s hitlist and are defending themselves cannot be ignored. And, a number of Russian banks have linked to the Chinese alternative to SWIFTCIPS. Beijing and Moscow have a multi-faceted strategy; more below.

PETRODOLLAR. Saudi Arabia is reported to have threatened to drop the “Petrodollar” if Washington goes ahead with certain legislation. It then denied it had done so: well, either way, the point is made, isn’t it? Meanwhile the Central Bank of Russia continues to buy gold, reserves are now reported to be 2,149 tonnes. China, usually silent, has announced its holdings: up 60% since the last announcement.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA I. In an interesting finding, given the non-stop Trumputin obsession of the corporate media, Rasmussen finds that slightly more respondents are suspicious of Clinton’s collusion with foreign entities than Trump’s. And, just on cue (or maybe it’s something we can expect in the post-Mueller world) the MSM notices Biden’s involvement and interference in Ukrainian corruption (Hill, Times) and a Ukrainian official wondering why Washington isn’t interested in their evidence of money and influence going to the Clinton campaign. Well, maybe Washington will be interested now.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA II. Is the dam finally about to break? Barr Forms Team To Investigate FBI Malfeasance; criminal referrals from Nunes; Ukrainian involvement; FISA warrants; lawsuits; spying on Trump campaign; this. Stay tuned.

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. I speculate on PDS post-Mueller.

WESTERN VALUES. Canada’s Democratic Institutions Minister (apt title eh?) says the Internet should be regulated to protect against election meddling. Who knew Our Democracies were so delicate? I will have a piece coming out in Strategic Culture Foundation to explain how to protect our precious bodily fluids democracies against Putin.

THE EMPTINESS OF FORMER FLAPS. The US violates Swedish airspace more often than Russia.

TURKEY. When the coup failed two and a half years ago, I predicted that sooner or later, Turkey would leave NATO. Erdoğan blamed Washington for the attempt and there is the persistent story that Moscow saved his life. We move closer. More threats from Washington with Pence telling Ankara to choose between NATO or the S-400 (“done deal” says Foreign Minister); some US senators threaten too. Ankara threatens back and points out that there are other makers of fighter aircraft: Russia, for example. A book published by the US Naval Institute is said by a Turkish newspaper to include a scenario of a conflict with Turkey. Erdoğan was just in Moscow for talks with Putin: here’s the news conference: trade, investment, NPP, TurkStream, tourism, Syria. And weapons. None these subjects will make Washington happy. Why, BTW, would Turkey want Russian air defence missiles? Simple: in case it should become a former friend of Washington: a very dangerous thing to be.

UKRAINE ELECTION. A poll suggests that the losers’ votes are most likely to go to Zelensky in the runoff on the 21st. Putin is apparently a candidate, or is Poroshenko saying Zelensky is Putin’s puppet? More questions than answers: will Poroshenko contrive to cancel the election? Is Zelensky a beard for Kolomoisky? How’s Tymoshenko going to take being knocked out? Has she cut a deal with Zelensky? How much cheating? (And sotto voce: does anybody care any more?) Speculations.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 28 MARCH 2019

MUELLER. One half of the lie has been exploded with the finding that no one connected with Trump colluded with any Russians. The other half of the lie – created by the same people for the same reasons – lives on. Again I tell you: Russia did not/not interfere in the US election, Mueller’s indictment of a Russian clickbait farm notwithstanding. (Again: read MoA and learn today what the NYT will discover (admit to) tomorrow.) Neither official Russia nor unofficial Russia. Why not? Simple deduction: if Moscow had wanted to damage Clinton, it would have used its most powerful weapon; it didn’t; QED.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Will continue – somewhat diminished by the hard kick of reality to be sure – but they’ve too much invested in it and some will double down while others try to slither away. We see the goalposts being moved. The winner so far: Mueller Report Has Moscow in Ecstasy, Opening the Way for More Putin Plots… expect Vladimir Putin to be more aggressive than ever. Schiff (Mr Pillow Man) digs his hole deeper; Swalwell and Peters dive into it.

MEDIA. “[Did you] receive bad information throughout this process like so many of us did?” asks whathishair – remember that moment: a “Big Journalist” admits that they’re just typists. Followed by the admission from the boss of CNN that they’re not investigators. NYT blubbers not just we, but you too. Taibbi is correct: “death-blow for the reputation of the American news media.” Last week I wrote “A poll shows that “hardly any confidence at all in the press” is the winning answer.” What’s next week’s answer going to be? A free, sceptical and challenging media is important; what happens when it’s just a big typing pool waiting for Big Brother’s Dictaphone? Time to learn from the Soviets.

SCHADENFREUDE COMPENDIUM. Here. And there’ll be more: make your choice for the biggest liar. Schadenfreude is enjoyable (I do enjoy it – earliest I could find, but I always knew it was BS). Hannity rant. Carlson ditto.

RUSSIA RELATIONS. Immense damage has been done. Will it be repaired? Can it be repaired? Russia is not a joke country in Disneyland and we’re not characters in a Marvel comic. How idiotic it would be if the Earth were destroyed because Hillary Clinton lost, couldn’t accept it and invented a story for lying liars to lie about. Much will depend on whether Trump starts a real investigation so that the falsity is exposed. (Conrad Black has the best exposition of the conspiracy for people who are just tuning in.)

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CALVEY ARREST. I have no worthwhile opinion and I defer to John Helmer who is sceptical.

CRIMEA. Five years ago. What’s been done. A lot.

SANCTIONS. A sentence from Awara’s latest struck me: “Russia’s imports from China (26% of total) are now three times bigger than those from Germany (7.8%). Total imports from the EU now make up only 30% of all Russia’s imports.” I don’t think the EU is going to get much of that market back, do you?

GOLAN HEIGHTS. Bingo! There goes the Western case on South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Karabakh, Transdnestr and, of course, Crimea. (One yuuuge difference being, of course, that in the other cases the locals were consulted.) But maybe Trump knows that: “Crimea is part of Russia because everyone there speaks Russian“; which, if you’ve taken the trouble to learn Trumpian, is quite a profound statement.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Italy joins BRI; wavers on the obligatory F-35 buy. (They’re still duds, BTW.) Germany won’t spend the money and won’t block Huawei.

KAZAKHSTAN. Nazarbayev has constructed a smooth changing of the guard.

VENEZUELA. Moscow warns, Washington warns, Beijing clears its throat. Russian troops and aid appear, S-300s deployed. I keep thinking about this video – Kalibres lurking in commonplace containers.

NEW NWO. Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian Chiefs of Staff meet in Damascus. Don’t remember seeing this in the PNAC manifesto. But it’s a result, all the same.

CHICKENS. HOME. ROOST. “[T]he G7 group is concerned by extreme political movements in Ukraine…“. Whoa! Weren’t these people just Putin’s “fabricated claim“, “revanchist policy“, “lying“? FBI: Neo-Nazi Militia Trained by US Military in Ukraine Now Training US White Supremacists. Azov-Christchurch?

UKRAINE. Lowest confidence in their government in the world. Comedian still in front: someone hopes that things will get better. Sorry: Kiev has to burn the last bit of the Galician fantasy to ashes and understand that the right people won the Second World War. Then, maybe, some hope.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 14 MARCH 2019

TIME AND PREDICTIONS. Gorbachev became GenSek 34 years ago on Monday. I remember Dr Leonid Abalkin saying first stage six months, second stage three years, third stage 30 years. And I’ve kept that in the back of my mind ever since. Well, here we are, plus or minus: 1985.25+33.5=2018.75 years. (Remember that he said this back when people were babbling about how you can’t cross a chasm in two steps, shock therapy, 500 days and similar feel-good bromides. Read Janine Wedel’s book and go back to the day when some American operator knocked on a door in St Petersburg, recognised his doppelganger, and they realised how much they could steal. Now Russian luxury cars in Swiss car shows which is a sign of something.) I met him again when I was a dip on Moscow: I think he didn’t become world-famous because he didn’t speak English but, truth to tell, English fluency probably wouldn’t have helped because what he was saying didn’t Fit The Story. But the people who were proved wrong well before he was proved right are still out there gilding turds; for example.

ARMS CONTROL. Of the four important arms control treaties left to us, only one remains and it probably won’t survive. Washington has killed them (although, typically, blaming Moscow as it did).

TAXI! Is Russia going to lose its monopoly as the Only Taxi Service to the ISS?

SANCTIONS. RUSAL profits up and Russia’s European gas market share up. Not working. Three reasons: the West’s so-called world community isn’t that large; Russia is not just a “gas station” – it’s a full-service economy; Russians don’t give in. (And a fourth – Washington’s “shallow bench” on Russia.)

GUNS. Shoygu addressed a Duma committee: 316 weapons tested in Syria. In six years 217 new nuclear missiles; 3 SSBNs; 57 spacecraft; 7 submarines; 3,712 new and upgraded tanks; more than 1,000 planes and helicopters; 161 surface ships. See below and below.

YET ANOTHER NEW WEAPON. A large version of these. UK media gets another fit of the vapours.

WAR GAMES. Some attention has been given to the findings of RAND that the US has “its ass handed to it” in war games with Russia and China. (In their home ground, of course: the USA remains almost 100% safe from foreign attack.) No news to some of us (I here and here) but somewhat of a shock at home. But, you’ll be happy to hear, the problem can be fixed with a few billion dollars. (The US already outspends the next eight countries but just a few more bucks and it’ll be done.) What is striking about this sort of thing is that there is never any consideration of what diplomacy could do or that the US should stay out of Russia and China’s home ground. Reminds one of Einstein’s supposed remark about insanity, doesn’t it?

HOW WE LOST RUSSIA. US Ambassador explains. Haven’t read it but a colleague has so I don’t have to: “our junior partner” “post-traumatic stress disorder” “little inclination to concede much to a declining power.” “Putin has a remarkable capacity for storing up slights and grievances, and assembling them to fit his narrative of the West trying to keep Russia down.” Poor Americans! What can you do with such an sulky neighbour?

LEXUS AND VOVAN DO VENEZUELA. They catch both the puppeteer and the puppet. These two produce more truthful revelations than a year’s subscription to the NYT.

TRUMP AND THE GORDIAN KNOT. Washington is said to be considering charging hosts for US bases (at 150%); threatens Turkey; threatens Germany; threatens Italy. I still like my theory that Trump’s doing it on purpose to make them cut the knot.

US MEDIA. A poll shows that “hardly any confidence at all in the press” is the winning answer.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. The bottom is still far away: Dostoevskiy and measles.

NATO. Creating new enemies wherever it goes. “They’re terrorists because their orange groves have been destroyed and they’ve got nothing to do.”

PROBLEMS WITH THE NARRATIVE. The OPCW report of the alleged CW attack in Douma (used as the excuse for an attack by FUKUS – love that acronym!) says no nerve agent. MSM does its best (there are many traces of chlorine in your house) and the US State Department sticks to its line. Its new line that is: yesterday’s line was “Douma symptoms consistent with nerve agent: U.S. State Department“.

UKRAINE. We’re now told that Ukrainian troops in Crimea were ordered to shoot and refused orders. As few in the West remember, most of them either joined the Russian Armed Forces or quit.

UKRAINE ELECTION. The actor is presently leading; nazi groups are taking sides. 17 days to go.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 28 FEBRUARY 2019

PUTIN SPEECH. (Eng) (Rus) As I concluded from reading his 1999 essay, Putin at the beginning had four broad intentions: to reverse economic decline, to re-establish central authority, to create a rule of law (or at least a rule of rules) and to make Russia count for something in the world. In 1999 I think he expected goodwill or at least benign indifference from the West. But, as time passed, he came to realise that that was not going to happen because the background rulers of Washington (pick a name: deep state/borg/blob/neocons/exceptionalists/war party) would never permit Russia to rise. The destruction of Libya was the event, I believe, that finally convinced him that the West could not be trusted, that no lasting agreements could be made with it and that its present power must be endured. But, I believe he also understood that hubris would bring its downfall; Russia had to survive through the dangerous times until the inevitable nemesis. (Beijing ditto in its own way, in its own time). Painful, frightening, difficult, dangerous but, with the right preparations, survivable. This necessitated a change of emphasis: as he said at the beginning of the foreign policy/defence part of his speech “Russia has been and always will be a sovereign and independent state. This is a given. It will either be that, or will simply cease to exist”. In short, he (and his team – it’s not a one-man band: note Ivanov’s reappearance) concluded that Russia was in danger. For Russians, defence always comes first – Anglo-Americans have no comprehension of the Russian experience of war. Last year he described some Russian super-weapons – obviously in development for some time – that checkmated Washington. He mentioned another one this time and a subordinate explained how it will nullify whatever Washington comes up with to replace the INF Treaty it destroyed. Whatever Washington can dream up tomorrow Moscow has already blocked: “The U.S.-Russia Nuclear Arms Race Is Over, and Russia Has Won” (in Newsweek of all places). Now that security has been ensured (and better, I think, than at any time in Russia’s thousand-year history), the original program can be resumed. Therefore, most of his speech (83% by word count) was about the program: birth rate, poverty, infrastructure, administrative simplification, rule of law/rules and modernising. Few in the West get this. RFE has an amusing annotated version of the speech. Roman historical parallels are always fun and fashionable – these guys are like the Optimates: the Republic/world order they think they’re restoring no longer exists.

DEMOGRAPHICS. Karlin’s latest assessment. Summary: fertility boom over, now at EU averages. Life expectancy rising and infant mortality dropping. Read it all, many charts and facts.

INTERNAL POLITICAL CRISIS? From Southfront. Thesis is that sluggish living standards, stagnant political culture, increased taxes and the unpopular pension reform are seriously hurting the popularity of the government. My assessment is that, while there is something to it, the authors overstate the case. Hahn discusses some possible cracks in the inner circle. Certainly things to keep in mind and, if Putin does go at the end of his term (which I expect him to), there will some jostling, but Putin has many times shown that he sees far ahead and I anticipate a smooth transition to a carefully chosen successor. But I mainly make my case on the simple observation that if we compare Russia 2000-2019 with any Western country, the contrast jumps out at you: successful effective government in one and… well… not so much.

INFRASTRUCTURE. Awara report on airports. And, again, roads and bridges. Just talked to a friend back from a long river cruise, who has been there many times since the 1970s – everywhere new construction and restored old. Meanwhile from the Western media, same old, same old.

SKRIPALMANIA. The best theory I’ve seen so far. Of course, you’re free to stay with the official story which now requires you to contemplate why super-deadly “novichok” requires removing the roof of the house while Zizzi’s, old roof and all, is open for business.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. Maybe Russia is “aggressive” because “it feels threatened by the quality of Western institutions and Western alliances“. Then again, maybe not.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Warsaw and Munich. Two cases of the Europeans being rudely ordered to get on board. Last year I suggested Trump was being insulting on purpose in order to cut American foreign entanglements. He certainly has a gift for picking offensive spokesmen.

NEW NWO. A Gallup poll asked respondents in 133 countries to rate four countries’ leadership: Germany 39% approval. China 34%, USA 31% and Russia 30%. The fall of the US is Trumpism (real and imagined) but the rise of Russia and China – especially given the hostility of the MSM – is striking.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 14 FEBRUARY 2019

RUSSIA COLLUSION. US Senate says none. Clinton’s excuse for her shattered campaign has generated much damage: censorship, stronger war party, hysterical TV, attacks on anyone who bucks the war party, destruction of the last bits of “journalistic standards”, bogus charges, mangled innocents like Maria Butina. And more aggression against Russia. How much better off we’d be if Trump had never uttered the words “Russia” or “Putin”. We’re at the end state I feared: no Trumputin (remember this from the NYT?) but much more evil Putin. I doubt Schiff will ever stop and CNN and MSNBC still have time to fill.

CURRENCY WARS. The Central Bank of Russia continues its strategy: total USD holdings down to 22% from 46%, Euros and Renmenbi holdings up; gold 2,112 tonnes. Total external debt $453.7 billion, lowest in nearly 10 years. Moody’s upgrades debt rating. Washington’s economic war is failing.

INFRASTRUCTURE. Lots of roads being built and improved. Bridges too.

IVANOV. We learn what Sergey Ivanov has been doing. “Environmental Activities, Environment and Transport“. I guess Avangard changes the security environment and is a form of transport.

ROC. I think Helmer’s over-reacting — I see the Patriarch saying the Church is independent of the state.

FAKE NEWS. Only liars try to control the news. (A propos: BBC producer says Douma films faked.)

NOT SUCH FUN NOW. Remember when it was fun to poke the bear? “Weak and dying”, “really weak”, “not strong”, “deceptively weak military”? Second thoughts now. Missile defence systems fail. Chinese and Russian space technologies. S-400 iron curtain against US airpower. US military outgunned. Of course, not a millisecond’s consideration of a diplomatic solution: it’s all “we are not investing enough to keep up“. Delusion rules in Washington.

INF TREATY. Washington is leaving the INF Treaty, Moscow followed suit. I think this is the Trumpian overture (vide North Korea and NAFTA) to negotiating a new treaty to include China. We’ll see if it works. Russia has an immediate response: take the ship-borne Kalibr systems and put them on land. I agree with Orlov that the suspension of the Treaty actually works to Moscow’s benefit. Will the Europeans, with this new bullseye painted on their heads, protest as before – protests that helped create the Treaty – or have they been completely de-spined?

SOTU. 16% by word count on foreign affairs. More money for military, missile defence system, maybe we can negotiate a new INF, Korea going well, time to get out of Syria and Afghanistan. BUT. Time to interfere in Venezuela, Iran is the “leading state sponsor of terror” (where do they get that nonsense? there is an immense gulf between ibn Taymiyyah-inspired jihadists and Twelver Shiites. I know, silly question.) End three wars, start two more. Progress. Sort of.

WESTERN VALUES™. We arrive at cut-rate prostitution of something that, a couple of decades ago, had some content. The excuse: “Venezuela’s Humanitarian Crisis” (ever-compliant Human Rights Watch); the reason: “It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.” (Bolton) Pretty stupid not to recognise the pattern now.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Tulsi Gabbard is a Putinbot. Russia could freeze us to death! Trump spouts Russian propaganda. Russian fishsticks!!! “Russian disinformation” bunk from Canada. To paraphrase Planck: hysteria will recede funeral by funeral.

NORDSTREAM II. Despite Washington – the US Ambassador even wrote threatening letters – and a peculiar intervention by Macron, Berlin holds firm on building it.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Germany, France and the UK have set up a payments system – INSTEX – to avoid US sanctions on Iran. Or is it too late and will only affect small stuff on the margin?

AUTRES TEMPS, AUTRES MŒURS. Brave protester against Putin’s “diktat of a monolithic and unshakable order“, flees to France, repeats fire stunt. No “art of the political protest” there: arrested, 11 months in pre-trial detention, 2 years suspended and €21K fine. Gessen lionised him then, will she now?

UKRAINE. “Ukraine’s steady progress and growing momentum toward democracy are irrefutable… Ukraine’s accomplishments rival those made by any of the Central Europeans in the same time span since 1990. “Sounds like the sort of tripe the Integrity (Challenged) Initiative extrudes (when not smearing Corbyn). Still not the stupidest pimping Ukraine story: In Ukraine It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, and a Lot Less Like Russia remains the winner.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 3 JANUARY 2019

BALANCE. The first successful test of the Avangard hypersonic vehicle is announced. Super fast (Mach 27 they say) and highly manoeuvrable, development began when Washington withdrew from the ABM Treaty. Putin promised that Russia would “act independently”, it did and here we are today. Avangard nullifies the entire US ballistic missile defence effort: “We don’t have any defense“. Impossible to shoot down: there’s only about 20 minutes from launch to anywhere and it can be coming in from any direction. Putin, in his presser, said Avangard “maintains the balance”. It’s important to understand Moscow’s point of view and not respond with petulance. Because, here as elsewhere, Moscow has got it right: the danger of ballistic missile defence development is that one side might come to believe that its defence is good enough to save it from a response and might be tempted to do a first strike. (Who’s stupid enough? Well, that’s what all this stuff is about: removing the possibilities). The ABM Treaty preserved the crazy, but stable, balance of mutual assured destruction. It was stable because, each side knew that, whatever the start state, whatever happened in between, the end state would always be the same: destruction of both. But Washington, convinced it would be supreme forever, tossed the Treaty in 2001. Russia now has a weapon that cannot be stopped; therefore there is no possible way to stop a retaliatory strike and so no first strike is conceivable. We’re back to the crazy stability of mutual assured destruction. This is rebalancing. But it would have been much easier, cheaper and safer to have kept the original Treaty.

RUSSIA INC. From Putin’s presser. 2018 numbers so far. GDP up 1.7%, industrial output up 2.9%; fixed capital investment up 1.4%; real incomes showing small growth of 0.5%; expect to hit inflation estimate of 4%; unemployment down to just under 5%; trade surplus on track to be about $190 billion; gold and foreign currency reserves $464 billion. There will be a small budget surplus (first since 2011) and the National Welfare Fund has grown about 22%. Life expectancy up a bit to 72.9 years. The Energy Minister estimates Russia earned an extra $120 billion in two years of oil production cuts. Russia is surviving the West’s sanctions. Putin later added that Russia produces about 80% of “vital medications”.

PUTIN ON SOCIALISM. See this. Still a тупик (Russian slang for dead end).

THE COUNTRY THAT MAKES NOTHING. Moscow opens the 17th Metro station built this year. A 60-kilometre fence along the Crimea-Ukraine border is completed. The modernised Tu-22M3M has taken its first flight. 3 1/2 million cars have travelled the Crimea Bridge. (Winter bonus picture: Russia’s, and the world’s, second largest icebreaker at the North Pole).

RECIPROCITY? The FSB has arrested an American on espionage charges. It is possible that this is retaliation for the disgusting treatment of the wretched Maria Butina but if so, we may be sure that Moscow will be scrupulous in playing by the rules. If for no other reason than to make the point.

SYRIA. Predictable results from Trump’s withdrawal decision. Ankara holds back on its attack on the Kurds but continues threatening. Syrian Army took over a key town with Kurdish agreement. Moscow is the place to be: Kurds are there and so are Turks. The likely result will be Kurds and Damascus making an agreement that allows Damascus to control the territory and Ankara’s concerns taken into account. Recognising reality, Arab states re-establish relations with Damascus. The soldiers of Washington and its minions were the obstacle to peace. More to come apparently: Trump has ordered a big withdrawal from Afghanistan and that plans for full withdrawal be drawn up. Pat Buchanan sums up the complete failure of Washington’s wars in the MENA. Good analysis by Elijah Magnier.

SKRIPALMANIA. Putin: “Without the Skripal case, they would have come up with something else. This is quite obvious to me. Their only goal is to contain Russia and prevent it from emerging as a potential competitor.” Sochi toilets; MH17; doping; “invasion of Crimea”; election whatever-the-story-is-now; Masha and the Bear and on and on. Always something. (But I don’t think Russia is losing this, do you?)

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. This headline sums up the latest stage of nonsense: “Firm Who Warned America of ‘Russian Meddling’ Caught Running Fake Russia Bot Campaign. And yet the idiocy continues and can only get worse when this guy, who thinks Putin has a man follow Medvedev around threatening to smother him, is in charge of investigations. We’re finding out how stupid stupid can become. It would be funny if there was anything to laugh about taunting a nuclear superpower.

UKRAINE. Informative exchange between Putin and a Ukrainian reporter. To read it, search here for Roman Tsymbalyuk.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 20 DECEMBER 2018

SYRIA. The US is leaving. Here’s Trump (his saying ISIS is defeated is flim flam; he would remember the saying about Vietnam: “declare victory and leave”). Lots of speculation why and what: here’s the best I’ve seen so far. Everyone who hates Trump hates it: I look forward to pink pussy hat protesters. Will we have a sudden “Assad gases children” false flag? Will the borg just disobey him? Wait and see. But this is one of the reasons people voted for him: these wars do not “make America great”.

PUTIN PRESSER. Quick summary. I’ll cover it next Sitrep if I think he’s said anything new.

TODAY’S AMUSEMENT. US Coast Guard Turns Down Arctic Exercise Because 40-year-old Icebreaker Might Break Down And Would Require Russian Help“. “The country that doesn’t make anything” has the two most powerful icebreakers in existence. You can cruise on one of them.

SOLZHENITSYN. Putin attended the unveiling of a statue on the centenary of his birth and met with his widow in the Kremlin. I repeat, for those who think Putin worships Stalin or something, that excerpts from the Gulag Archipelago are required reading in Russian schools. (The NYT has a poor memory.)

STUNT OR REMINDER? Two White Swans visited Venezuela. Prompting this nugget from the stupidity mine: “The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.”

GUNS. SIPRI reports that Russia is the second biggest arms exporter in 2017 (USA first at five times as much). Of course, apart from other things, Syria has proved to be a great showcase and test bed.

SANCTIONS. The US Treasury has announced that it has dropped its sanctions against RusAl (the second largest aluminum company) but will keep them against its – what now? former owner? absentee owner? Meanwhile more sanctions against some other Russian entities for some imagined involvement in some imagined crime.

WESTERN VALUES™. Months of solitary confinement, threats and emptied wallet and Maria Butina takes a plea deal. As Beria is said to have said “give me the man and I will give you the crime”.

THE EMPTINESS OF FORMER FLAPS. Murdered by Kremlin!!!! Oops, natural causes. Reminiscent of the death of Badri Patarkatsishvili in 2008: another enemy of Putin dies; oops, Saakashvili’s enemy. (Meanwhile, in Georgia, a recording has appeared of Saakashvili ordering his death).

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. There’s a plan to strengthen the Euro’s international role. Merkel criticised Trump for “populism” and similar doubleplusungood things. The EU foreign policy chief says shortcomings of the IMF Treaty are no reason to scrap it. But, obediently the European Parliament praises Ukraine, condemns Russia and calls for stopping Nord Stream. (Germany will ignore the last). And it extended sanctions on Russia because of “zero progress in implementation of Minsk agreements“. Moscow has no obligations under the agreement but that fact has never stopped them before. So baby steps away from Daddy, big steps back.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Some developments. The reporter who first spread the Dossier story now doubts it. Google CEA says “Russians” spent less than $5000. Nate Silver doubts there was much effect. The so called influence campaign was really a click-bait scheme to sucker advertisers. But it rolls on. For your amusement, a mash-up of how Trump is finished!!!!

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. MoA lists all the things Putin has “weaponised”. But don’t dare laugh: the BBC solemnly informs us he’s weaponised humour. A US comic book has him as villain and a super hero whose sister was gassed “by Assad, the Russians’ puppet”. London Times: “Russian accounts fuel French outrage online“. Paris is investigating. And why not blame Russia? Everybody in the EU is as happy as happy can be, only the malign efforts of wicked Moscow could make them think they weren’t. McCarthyism wasn’t as crackbrained as this.

POLAND. The LNG deal is signed. 20 years FOB at Texas. This can’t be cheaper than Russian gas.

UKRAINE. Israel’s ambassador to Kiev ‘shocked’ after seeing that a region in Ukraine honors Nazi collaborator Bandera“. He just noticed? Not just a region. A parliamentarian says the EU cheated them. It is not inconceivable that the election, if Poroshenko can’t finagle his way out of it, may bring some change. The new president can blame the old and it will be a re-arrangement of the deckchairs and who knows what will happen in such an unhappy and unstable country? If Poroshenko orders an attack the certain defeat will stir more up. But change is more likely worse than better.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 6 DECEMBER 2018

RUSSIA INC. This report from Awara on Russia’s economy is much better than the one I mentioned last time. The authors argue that the Putin Team saw sanctions coming and proofed the economy against them: “Russia now has the world’s most self-sufficient and diversified economy capable of producing anything possibly made in the world. Russia is now for the first time in its history food self-sufficient while simultaneously exporting more food than ever before. With this clout, Russia is prepared to withstand the economic siege, that the US regime is hatching.” And it’s armed to defend itself. The sanctioners did not, as they thought, “have good intelligence“: “The single biggest error was to believe the propaganda lie that the Russian economy was totally dependent on oil and gas. Here they foolishly confused the share of oil and gas in total exports – which was and remains at the level of 60% – with the share of these commodities of the total economy, which in 2013 was 12% (today 9%)”. In short, Russia is well-positioned to go it alone. (It doesn’t have to though, all the countries on Washington’s hitlist are potential collaborators). As I like to put it, Russia has a full-service economy, few others do. I recommend reading the report (testy in parts, but given the mountain of anti-Russia nonsense, that’s forgiveable).

TURKSTREAM. Another big step with completion of the offshore section.

WESTERN VALUES™. The next time the US State Department solemnly declares some country’s election “undemocratic”, just laugh: ballot harvesting in CA and NC.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Finally we learn what Flynn’s “crime” was. He may have corroborated Pence’s erroneous statement that there had been no contacts with Russian officials and, like so many others, he lobbied for a foreign government. (His real crime, of course, was revealing Obama’s and that is why he had to be taken out first.) I hope this begins the end of the Mueller farrago.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. Guardian prints fake story, gets caught, some ex-CIA guy suggests Putindunnit. “They had 17 aircraft, we have 48 missiles – I think we’re going to win that one.” In the real world, just before they noticed anything, the first Kinzhal would have slammed in at Mach 10.

GEORGIA. Salome Zurabishvili is the new President of Georgia. She, a quondam French diplomat, was Saakashvili’s Foreign Minister (salary paid by Paris, BTW) until she had enough of him and quit. Always wondered whether Paris’ relatively rational view on the 2008 war owed something to her.

CW ATTACK? WHAT CW ATTACK? More Than 100 People Wounded In Aleppo Chemical Attack: Syrian Officials“. “The West Stays Mum About Aleppo Chemical Attack“. Not a hard deduction.

UKRAINE. No one expects that Poroshenko can be re-elected, no matter what fraud he pulls off. And nothing to suggest that his erstwhile supporters in the West want him any more. The simple truth is that post-Maidan Ukraine has been a comprehensive disaster and a new President (Tymoshenko is ahead and she’s no friend) will need someone to blame. And who better than Poroshenko? So his choice is to finagle his way out of the election or join Saakashvili in the Formerly Useful Club with an arrest warrant on his head and no money. Hence the stunts: the church robbery and now the Kerch Straits adventure. (I doubt your Local News Outlet told you that Ukrainian military vessels following the Russian rules quietly passed through in September.) He tried to get out of elections by declaring martial law but his opponents forced a limitation: only a month and only in Novorissiya and bordering Transdnestr (where he wouldn’t get any votes anyway). So that option has been blocked for the moment. (Another something your LNO outlet hasn’t told you: in early November the martial law regulations were amended to allow deportations. Almost as if it was planned, eh?) What’s left? Start an attack on the eastern rebels and claim Russia invaded? Plenty of rumours of that from both sides. (CW attack? Alleged Russian buildup.) There are always rumours of an imminent Ukrainian attack and I usually discount them; I am less willing to do so this time because of Poroshenko’s desperate situation. If Kiev does attack, it will be another defeat.

MH17. A lawsuit is possible. Not sure what to think: a real trial, with real evidence and real argument would be a good thing; another precooked show not. Are real trials still possible when it’s Russia?

TRUMP OPENS A NEW FRONT. “I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race… “. (Is his INF treaty denunciation a step to getting a US-Russia-China INF? Step one of what Scott Adams calls his persuasion technique?)

Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 22 NOVEMBER 2018

VICTORY! I’ve been waiting a decade for Washington to explain that the Ossetia war was actually a triumph for it. And here it is at last. American efforts resulted in “the Russians withdrawing to their start positions.” Well, they never intended to occupy Georgia. The same official then creatively blames Assad for “producing” ISIS. A complete echo chamber of delusion.

SANCTIONS. Bloomberg calculates that the Russian economy is about 10% smaller than it forecasted it would be in 2013. It reckons that about six percentage points of the decrease are due to Western sanctions and the rest to other factors. In short, sanctions have hurt but not as much as all that. I have long believed that this is transitory pain which will pay off later. For example, the increase in Russian food production has been remarkable. It would be interesting to see Bloomberg do an estimate for the cost to the EU: plenty of estimates out there, some as high as €100 billion. The point is that Russia wasn’t such a big market for the EU, but it was one of the few that was growing.

CORRUPTION. We are told that 300 police officers have been fired this year after complaints from citizens. There were 45,000 complaints. VTsIOM reports that trust in the police has dropped ten points since last year’s all-time high of 67%. Better than the old days when trust was under 50%; so, more work to be done, but work is being done. Corruption is a tricky subject, often treated too simply, I believe.

DIPLOMACY. Russia is trying to fix Libya and Afghanistan. I think it’s time to start contemplating the thought that Moscow might have some soft power.

WAR. A recent report comes as close as we will ever see to an admission that the USA would lose a war with either Russian or China on their home turf. This comes on the heels of a report showing that a large number of key defence components manufacturers are not secure and an earlier one that said many US weapons systems are vulnerable to hacking. These are consequences of endless wars in MENA, twenty years of poking Russia and China and unilateralism. Surely the rational conclusion would be that Washington should start rethinking things from the bottom up. Nope, more of the same is the answer: “The report also called for an expansion of the current $716 billion defense budget.”

THE LATEST. “GPS glitches during NATO’s largest war games in decades blamed on (DRUM ROLL) Russia“. Maybe. Russia is preparing for a war and, without GPS, NATO ground and air forces would be pretty helpless. So maybe a teeny tiny test to see if jammers worked. On the other hand, excuses are cheap and the exercise was not a very happy experience for Norway.

WESTERN VALUES™. Over the years I have grown drearily accustomed to human rights organisations being co-opted – weaponised is the fashionable word – by the Western war party (MSF, Pussy Riot and the rest) and have pretty well given up on them. But, a ray of light appears. Amnesty International is active in reporting the destruction of Raqqa by the US coalition. It is starting a project to record the destruction: what they have collected so far on “the most destroyed city in modern times” is at strike-tracker. So the next time the White Helmets or Bellingcat tells you of some Russian atrocity, remember that it would be impossible to be more indiscriminately destructive than US/NATO “targeted actions“.

US ELECTIONS. Did Putin fix them? If so how? Why did he want Trump’s party to lose the House? If he didn’t, why didn’t he? I look forward to the NYT explaining how this fits into Operation Infektion.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. Masha and the Bear. “Putin’s tanks are hidden in Masha’s backpack“. DM readers treat this with the scorn it deserves. A friend suggested setting up a mock conference to make deadpan over-the-top claims to ridicule Russophobia. I don’t think you can ridicule people who believe in Masha’s armoured backpack and Medvedev’s pillow carrier.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Some more straws in the wind. Madrid has allowed 3 Russian warships to resupply at Cueta, the first time in 3 years. A minister says Paris will lead EU efforts to create a payment mechanism to keep trade with Iran. And TurkStream marks another milestone.

UKRAINE. Remember when Ukrainian nazis were just Putin propaganda? US News, Daily Beast, AIM, Fox, and plenty more assured us (BBC here) that reports of nazis in Ukraine were only troll factory output. Now, for some reason, the Western media is noticing: New Republic, CBS, AP, Max Blumenthal. Even the US propaganda outlet RFE/RL tells us: “Azov, Ukraine’s Most Prominent Ultranationalist Group, Sets Its Sights On U.S., Europe.” And chickens are arriving home as this Criminal Complaint shows. Why they notice today what was perfectly obvious then, I cannot tell you.

NOTE. Alexander Mercouris has referred me to his discussion of the Bloomberg report. He argues, very convincingly, that the report doesn’t actually make sense when you look at it carefully, that Russia has very effectively responded to Western sanctions and that it is a very strong position to withstand further sanctions. He sees the report as part of a propaganda effort to gather support for more sanctions on the grounds that sanctions are working and that another push will gain the desired result. It’s reinforcing failure along the lines of Einstein’s alleged definition of insanity.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 8 NOVEMBER 2018

US ELECTION. The chance of war has gone up a bit: the House investigation into the conspiracy will stop (unless Nunes can do anything in the next two months) and go into reverse. Any move Trump makes towards improving relations with Russia will be met by the House shrieking he’s a Putin puppet: the new people in charge there are too heavily invested in the Russia story to stop now. The US political system will be seized up – lots and lots of investigations. Threats and counter threats. Not such a bad thing for the rest of us if the US system turns into a cannibal banquet but further ratcheting up the anti-Russia hysteria is not so good (top priority says Schiff). (A Chinese view of increased danger).

COINCIDENCE? 25 October 2018, China: “concentrate preparations for fighting a war”. 26 October 2018, Russia: “Yes, Russia is preparing for war”. They hear what’s said; they see what’s happening in their neighbourhoods. They draw conclusions and take steps.

TODAY’S THOUGHT. “In light of this very low level of military competence, maybe wars are not our best choice of hobby.

THE MOTHERLAND CALLS. A Russian diplomat says Russian exiles are returning. I can believe it: they moved West for security or better money; as Russophobia intensifies (see below) it’s not safer and maybe the money’s not so good after all. I expect to see a steady trickle of returnees.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. “Half of the Russians in London are spies, claims new report“. (But why not all of them? They’re Russians, after all, and should shut up and go away.) That’s 75 thousand Russian spies. Wow! And the report says there are only 200 case officers to handle them. But that’s nothing for Putin’s superhuman minions: they threw the US election with 80K FB posts buried among 33 trillion posts (that’s about half a billion others to every “Russian” post). They control time: they arrived in Gatwick at 1500 on a flight scheduled to arrive at 1545 that actually arrived at 1558. (Gotta be pretty stupid or inattentive to swallow this nonsense.)

SWIFT. Is a network linking banks around the world enabling transactions to move around easily and securely. US-dominated, it was used because it worked. But once Washington turned it into a weapon against Iran in 2012 (and again just now), it stopped being so convenient. It’s not fantastically complicated to replicate, SWIFT was used because it was expedient. But, if you’re on Washington’s hitlist, or fear you may be, it’s not so attractive. So Moscow, which is on the hitlist, has developed its own system and is linking other countries to it. It’s the same thing with the “petrodollar“: useful until Washington weaponised it; then time to find an alternative. And, when you must, you will: Delhi will pay for its S400s in rubles; Iran has turned off transponders on its tankers; Hungary upped its gold reserves (and so did Russia – now 17% of FOREX). The SWIFT story is an interesting demonstration of the fact that, sometimes, using it can mean losing it.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Macron calls for real European armed forces and Europe continues to be rebellious about Washington’s stance on Iran (new sanctions imposed – but with waivers to its oil customers. But not for the EU). Ah well, talk is cheap – especially in the EU – and there are formidable problems creating a European army – a new report shows the stunning incapacity of the German forces. They would have to completely rethink the Russia relationship then find the mountains of money to build up their forces, support elements and supply chains. Today Europe relies on the US to provide all these things. The US military, in its turn, as a new report shows, depends on foreign suppliers or a single struggling domestic manufacturer for several hundred key inputs… (NATO should meditate on being a little less demanding, don’t you think?) But the Istanbul meeting did show a refreshing independence from Paris and Berlin. It’s rather like the SWIFT story: they went along with the USA because it was easy and it worked well enough. But it’s no longer easy and it doesn’t work so well.

SYRIA. While the Russia-Turkey-France-Germany meeting on Syria in Istanbul did not settle all issues, or maybe even any issue, it was momentous because of no USA and the end of the “Assad must go” magical spell. Moscow continues to give us lessons on how to blend military power with diplomatic skill. Meanwhile, in Syria, demonstrating the opposite, we see US-backed forces fighting Turkey. As I wrote three years ago, it’s not hard to see why Moscow runs rings around Washington here and elsewhere. The midterms will probably put Washington back to недоговороспособность: no agreement possible either because it can’t make one or won’t keep it.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer