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


(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


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 – 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


THE GREAT RESHUFFLE. I do expect Putin to retire and assume him to be working on a succession plan to keep the team’s aims in operation. He’s due to go in about four years. I would not be surprised if we see something à la Kazakhstan where Nazarbayev still has a significant advisory authority.

1. NEW PM. Mikhail Mishustin, head of Tax Service. Is he the chosen one? (Would be a blow to the Hirsute Analytical Tool, though.) (Мишустин bio on Russian Wikipedia.)

2. CONSTITUTION. Putin suggested constitutional tweaks. A ban on any form of dual citizenship for certain positions: they must “inseparably connect their lives with Russia and the Russian people without any assumptions and allowances”. The Duma should appoint the PM and the PM the government although little was said about exactly how responsibilities were to be divvied up. (Did he support removing the two consecutive term rule? Don’t know – depends on what you think “этим” refers to.)

3. PRECEDENCE. Back when the world was simpler and happier and Russians naïve, the Constitution (Art 15.4) said “If an international treaty of the Russian Federation establishes rules other than those stipulated by the law, the rules of the international treaty apply.” Brutal reality has taught Moscow the true nature of the “Rules-Based International Order” and Putin has proposed to reverse the authority.

4. MEDVEDEV. Deputy Chairman of the Security Council. I think it’s a real job and not a sinecure.

WHAT’S IT MEAN? My take. Doctorow. MacDonald. We are broadly in step. Robinson discusses possibilities. Those who see Russia as one man and many robots of course see this as Putin hanging onto power forever. But their predictive track record is pretty pathetic, isn’t it?

FEDERAL ASSEMBLY ADDRESS. In addition to the constitutional matters above, Putin’s address (Rus) (Eng), touched on other subjects. He began with population – the births per woman were 1.5 and he wants to raise that to 1.7 and proposes more day care places and greatly extending existing financial support programs as well as spending to improve healthcare. All this is possible because “The federal budget has had a surplus again” and inflation is low. (Robinson points out, quite correctly, that there’s a gap between what The Boss decrees and what actually happens. Nonetheless I’d say Putin has been much more successful than most leaders.) Foreign matters received the barest mention: situation in MENA threatening, Russia ready to cooperate, “defence capability is ensured for decades to come”.

RUSSIA INC. Awara does a study of Russian and American earnings and demonstrates that, in purchasing power, they’re a lot closer than you would think. It’s not just money: health, housing and education – big expenses in the USA – are negligible costs in Russia.

CORRUPTION. After an investigation, the Russian Academy of Sciences has forced the retraction of hundreds of scientific articles for plagiarism and other forms of fraudulent behaviour.

RUSSIA, SPORTS AND DRUGS. It’s all fakery – Mark Chapman takes the trouble to put it all together.

USN ALWAYS HAS RoW. Again the US accuses the Russian Navy of dangerous behaviour, again it was the USN ship that should have given way. (Give way to starboard vessel.) Speaking of rules-based.

IRAQ. It is reported that that Baghdad is in talks with Moscow on buying S-300 SAM systems. Baghdad orders Americans out; they refuse; Baghdad might need air defence that’s independent of US backdoor programming.

TURKSTREAM. Formally launched by the two presidents in Turkey.

NOT IN YOUR “NEWS” OUTLET. Helmer discusses a German parliamentary report that shows that there really isn’t any evidence that Russia “invaded” Ukraine or controls the rebels: “few reliable facts and analyses aside from the numerous speculations”. It calls it a “civil war” (bürgerkriegs). Which is what it actually is (with assistance from NATO and Russia, to be sure). (Report, German only).

TROUBLE IN PARADISE. A contested presidential election led to pretty strong protests with the Supreme Court changing its ruling. The long and the short is that Raul Khajimba, an important player and President for six years, resigned on Monday. New elections will be held in March. Independent Abkhazia has not been very stable and I don’t have any good sources to guide me on what’s happening. Although I have been told it is determined on real independence, joining neither Russia nor Georgia.

NEW NWO. Iran has just demonstrated it belongs to the rather small club of countries which can precisely strike a target from far away. At least somebody got the message.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer


TWENTY YEARS. Putin & Co have been running the place for two decades. I assess how well they accomplished his 1999 program and discuss the one thing he forgot about then but has since been forced to remember. The verdict has to be that they have achieved their goals extremely well. Twenty years ago Russia had a collapsed economy, was falling apart, lawless from top to bottom and insignificant in the world. Not any more. The propagandists at RFE-RL do their best to belittle the achievement. (USA and EU 20 years ago and now; Russia and China 20 years ago and now. You decide which management team you’d like.)

GOLD. Russia’s FOREX kitty is US$548.7 billion of which gold (2261 tonnes) accounts for about 20%.

RUSSIA INC. Reasonable quickie on the economy in 2019: de-dollarisation, turning eastwards, consolidation but still rather flat living conditions. Moscow is planning for the future. I still say that we are going to discover what Russia, freed from autocracy serfdom and bolsheviks, can do.

INFRASTRUCTURE. It’s hard to keep up. Some videos for those who believe Russia is a stagnant mess. Local trains. New highway. Grozniy. Shopping in a Moscow region town. Don’t need a freezer in Yakutsk. Aurus car factory. Trefoil Arctic base. Floating NPP. Beef farm. Farm in Voronezh. Maternity hospital. Fancy hotel in Crimea. Medium range passenger plane. Grocery store. Village shop. Restaurants in Irkutsk. ATOM tram. Siberian cities. Big changes – in my time it was more like this grocery store.

CRIMEA BRIDGE. Last week the railway part was formally opened and the first trains have crossed; the road part opened in May 2018. 63 months from decision to now; 46 from start of construction.

INTERNET TEST. Last week Russia tested the independence of its internet from world connections. The test was said to be successful. Not Russia cutting itself off but defending itself in case it is cut off.

HISTORY WARS. Putin displayed a number of documents relating to the start of the Second World War, thereby giving the fantods to many. But it’s true, even if most people in the West are ignorant: Moscow did all it could to create an anti-Hitler alliance and only gave up at the very last moment. That having been said, my advice to Putin would be to stop trying to defend the USSR’s territorial grabs – they were a cold-blooded attempt to gain strategic depth for the attack Stalin knew was coming.

NEW NWO. A Russia-China-Iran naval exercise in the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean. Not big but very symbolic.

RAQQA. Russian forces enter the town the US destroyed with “precision bombing“.

NORD STREAM 2. Nearly finished and Washington is infuriated. Tucked into a gigantic military spending bill are sanctions against companies working on it; one company has already quit. The Russians say they can finish the job and Berlin remains determined to do so. So what will the net effect be? A few months’ delay and Washington’s allies even more irritated. Which, I speculate, might be the point.

FAKE NEWS. Russia bombs hospitals says NYT. But, if you look closely, you’ll find, deep down, the admission that many of the given locations are wrong. That they are fakes doesn’t occur to the NYT.

OPCW. More leaks (good summary). Corporate media pretty quiet: in UK, Hitchens then Fisk yesterday; only Carlson in the USA. I guess exposing the lies that support attacks on Syria aren’t really real news.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. “Its economy, already smaller than Italy’s, may be sputtering… “. Two howlers and he hasn’t even finished the sentence.

US EXPERTISE. Somebody said that the USA has a shallow bench on Russia and so it does. Here’s a rather brutal exposure of the “expert” who is presumably Biden’s main advisor. Ten predictions about Russia in 2019, all assuming a malevolent expansionist lawless Russia. Result: no wins, many miserable misses. Has any US government “expert” got anything right about Russia? (Of course I exclude Cohen, Hahn et al; but they’re not official. Unfortunately.) An echo chamber of complacent ignorance.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Horowitz put a few nails in the conspiracy coffin, but only on the FBI part.

IMPEACHMENT. Who imagined that a little regime change to weaken Russia and get a naval base in Crimea would have such reverberations at home? And not, by any means, done yet.

UKRAINE. More encouraging steps. Another prisoner exchange (again most were, from Kiev’s POV, Ukrainian citizens). And finally a gas deal that ensures transit through Ukraine and supply to Ukrainian users at a discounted price. All issues settled says Medvedev and Zelensky is also happy. (So miserable is Ukraine’s economy that the transit fees will be 8% or more of Kiev’s revenue.)

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer


PARIS MEETING. It happened but nothing much happened. Agreed to a ceasefire and to uphold Minsk. But Zelensky can’t deliver: the Ukronazis amuse themselves by popping off rounds into towns in Donbass and Kiev refuses to take the next step: local elections in the rebel areas (Number 4). Nothing suggests that Macron pushed anything, although Zelensky wasn’t able to make Number 9 into the next step. The EU extended sanctions; they include a demand for the “complete implementation of the Minsk agreements“. If Macron had been serious about bettering EU-Russia relations, he would have had his representative object because Russia has no obligations under Minsk; if he didn’t already know that, he learned it at the meeting. So, thus far, no evidence that his actions comport with his words.

PUTIN PRESS CONFERENCE. (Eng) (Rus) I’ll say more next time if anything strikes me. Haven’t seen anything new so far. Again, lots of details, mostly internal.

SHADOW ECONOMY. I had thought that the imposition of the flat income tax rate of 13% in 2001 had pretty well eliminated the problem of the “grey economy”. But a recent study, comparing statistics on taxpayers against the number working, suggests that the “shadow economy” might be as high as 18% of the total workforce. I’m not convinced by that number: some people make too little to pay tax; added to which, given that there are proposals to raise the level from 13%, this study may be part of that discussion because it says that, were the non-payers to be captured, the tax rate could be cut to 11%. So that number might too high but it’s something to keep an eye on.

LUZHKOV. Yuriy Luzhkov died last week. Long-time mayor of Moscow, he was fired in 2010. I remember the moment when, as it were, Moscow city began to turn around. There was a garbage skip on the little street where the Canadian Embassy was. It would fill up, keep filling, overflow, fill up some more, overflow again. One day, early in 1994, it was emptied and thereafter was regularly emptied. Say what you like about him and his wife dipping their beaks, but he got stuff done.

INF. Washington has killed the INF Treaty which prohibited intermediate range missiles in Europe. Foreign Minister Lavrov says Moscow will never be the first to deploy them in Europe. If the US did deploy them (their last attempt sparked huge protests) Moscow can have them there the next day.

CORRUPTION. Aleksey Kuznetsov, who was Moscow Region finance minister 2000-2008, was sentenced to 14 years for fraud and theft. He had fled the country but was extradited from France.

WADA. A 4-year ban on Russia. Two comments: more medals for us! And I guess the Russian team did too well in Syria. Anyhow, the new way is getting doctor’s notes.

UK ELECTION. The craziness has hit there. Johnson is a Russian stooge; Russia has won the election; Fusion GPS (!!) tells us the UK needs a Mueller report.

SKIPALMANIA. “Ex-MP NORMAN BAKER is certain Russia has killed many people on British soil… but he believes we’ve been fed a pack of lies over the Salisbury poisonings“. Say what you like about the DM, but occasionally it veers away from the-re-type-what-you’re-handed mode. (PS Mr Baker, you’re late to the party – you’re just repeating Rob Slane – but welcome. BTW if they’re lying to you now, what makes you so sure they weren’t then too?) Skripal has phoned Russia three times – surreptitiously?

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. “Pentagon Concerned Russia Cultivating Sympathy Among US Troops“. Too stupid to waste a sneer at.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Erdoğan threatens to close the two US bases in Turkey if Washington goes ahead with sanctions. A YouGov poll finds that a majority of Germans are in favour of reducing reliance on US (55%) and increasing ties with Russia (54%). NATO’s biggest problems are internal cohesion. Germany rejects Washington sanctions on NordStream2. Der Spiegel defies Browder.

BAD DAYS FOR LIARS. Afghanistan war lies. Browder. Media lied about “Russiagate”; so did Schiff. And Comey. And of course, all the lies revealed by the IG: and that was just the FBI part of it. More from OPCW. All helping to make the idea of war with Russia more acceptable.

FAKE NEWS. Ukrainian reporter killed by Putin Ukronazis.

UKRAINE. One of Kiev’s biggest supporters reiterates his advice that Kiev should let the Donbass go: too expensive to fix and they don’t want to be in Ukraine anyway. All true enough but it’s noteworthy that neither now, nor three years ago, does he mention Crimea. But the same arguments apply, don’t they? And probably in Mariupol, Odessa, Transcarpathia and…

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer


POWER OF SIBERIA. Putin and Xi turned on the pipeline on Monday. It carries gas from Russia’s Far East into China and has a carrying capacity of 61 billion M3 per year. There’ll be more. This has no small strategic significance: previously, for foreign sales, Russia was dependent on customers in Europe who are all, to a greater or lesser extent, subject to pressure from the war party. Added to which transport was affected by Kiev’s whims. Turkstream (scheduled to start next month) and the two pipelines to Germany help with the second problem and this one with the first. Sooner or later, Russia-China pipelines would have appeared but I think Ishchenko’s argument that the Western war on Russia speeded up the process is credible. (Come to think of it, now that Putin’s hand is imagined everywhere, maybe it’s time to consider that he’s the American war party’s real backer; after all, everything it’s touched has turned to dust: from the forever wars, to Iran’s increased influence, to the Russia-China alliance and now the furore in the USA over Ukraine – itself another disastrous project.)

WEAPONS. More and more projects are surfacing. The Ground Forces commander says the Kungas robot family is ready for the next stage of tests – the Uran-9 UCGV is already in service. In accordance with the New START Treaty, Avangard was shown to US inspectors and it’s expected to be in service this month: a very hypersonic re-entry vehicle – there’s no defence against it because it’s less than 30 minutes from anywhere. These super weapons are not cost free: Putin confirmed that the August explosion in Severodvinsk did involve an unique weapon (one assumes either the Buravestnik or the Poseydon); work will continue said he. An over-the-horizon radar station is opened. The first upgraded White Swan strategic bomber is being tested.

SOFTWARE. A law has passed requiring electronic gadgets to have Russia software in them. The BBC idiotically says: “Others have raised concerns that the Russian-made software could be used to spy on users”. “Idiotically” because one of the reasons for the law is that US-made software is spying on users.

DEMOGRAPHICS. Karlin sees a small increase in Russia’s population over the next 30 years.

TOURISM. Moscow – World’s Leading City Destination 2019. Russia does show well.

CORRUPTION. The Russian Investigative Committee has opened a case into large scale theft during construction at the Vostochniy launch complex.

BROWDER. His story has been swallowed whole all over the West, “Magnitsky laws” passed and he has been pretty successful in quashing Nekrasov’s documentary. But, finally, a major Western news outlet takes up the story: Der Spiegel: “The case of Magnitsky: How true is the history on which US sanctions against Russia are based?” How true is it? Not very. (DS did it because of the ECHR decision?) DS merely repeats what Nekrasov discovered: watch the documentary and see the lies taken apart.

NATO SUMMIT. “NATO is obsoleteargues withNATO is brain dead“. “The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to Afghanistan“: next month NATO will have doubled the USSR’s time there; can it triple it? Busy busy busy: “much broader range of threats than in the past”: Russia, Middle East, Africa, weapons of mass destruction, cyber attacks, threats to energy supplies, environmental challenges. Add China. And space. More money. Trump leaves early. Brain dead and obsolete.

OPCW. Corrupted over Douma, how about Skripal? Helmer tweets: “British Ministry of Defence document reveals it is missing chain of custody over Skripal blood samples which the ministry’s DSTL laboratory at Porton Down claims to prove a Russian Novichok attack. Publishing shortly.” Somebody could have added “type A-234 nerve agent in its virgin state” or BZ to the sample? Nah, who’d do that?

WADA. A other corrupted organisation. (Tinfoil hat alert!) Dear Little Canada behind it?


THE DEMS STEP ON THE RAKE. Impeachment. Only question is how big will Trump’s win be?

NEW NWO. “Macron offers a very coherent geopolitical view of the world. He’s probably now the only western leader to have one.” Very interesting read. The Normandy meeting will tell us if he’s serious.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Six more EU countries join the INSTEX payment system to bypass US sanctions on Iran. US Germany Ambassador not amused. German poll: US down, Russia up.

UKRAINE MISCELLANY. A discussion of how dangerous the decision to use US fuel in Ukraine nuclear power plans could be. A Maidan participant realises that it was all for nothing. Ukronazis spotted in Hong Kong. The scourge has spread to the USA. Tails, dogs, chickens, roosts.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer


RUSSIA INC. The Russian economist Mikhail Dmitriev says “the Russian economy does not give a damn about the world recession [which he sees coming soon].” And he’s right – the Russian economy is the most self-reliant large economy in the world: very little external debt, few imports and a big nest egg of foreign currency and gold. Very self-sufficient (but no French cheese – remember that nonsense?) Ironic, isn’t it? the West’s war against Russia has strengthened it.

HE’S EVERYWHERE! Putin has the UK election covered they shriek: the Labour leader is a “useful idiot“, soft on Russia, a “Putin stooge“; and the Conservative leader hobnobs with ex-KGB agents and suppresses reports on the Russian interference. We’re watching the brain death of Western democracy.

NATO. Speaking of brain death, Macron conjured up another kerfuffle in an interview. Europe, said he, can no longer count on Washington and has to stand up on its own. Second time he’s said things that should not be said. So far it’s only talk but a test of his sincerity is coming on 9 December when he hosts a Ukraine meeting to which he has invited Putin, Zelensky and Merkel. The Kremlin spokesman had no opinion about NATO’s health: “We are not forensic pathologists“.

BUTINA. Finally released and back in Russia. Still a “spy” or “agent” to corporate media consumers.

NORD STREAM. At last, resisting much pressure from Washington, Denmark has granted permission for the pipeline to pass through its sea floor.

NEOLOGISMS. Adding to his useful Russophrenia, Bryan MacDonald has coined “Putophrenia“: “A condition where the sufferer believes Vladimir Putin is a crazed Russian nationalist who wants to destroy the West, and simultaneously, is, together with his cronies, robbing Russia blind & hiding all the dosh in the same West.” These two neatly point up the absurdities of the Western propaganda line.

“INTEGRITY” INITIATIVE. “British Government Disinformation Shop Lost Charity Status – Continues In New Format“. Of course it’s what you don’t see in propaganda operations that’s important.

IMPEACHMENT CIRCUS. We learn two things. Yes, there is a deepstate/blob/borg/groupthink in the US government that believes that only it – “consensus views of the interagency” – has the right to make foreign policy and is prepared to weaken a POTUS who steps out of line. Second, Washington’s policy on Ukraine is being run by people who have a dog in the fight.

CUBAN NOISES. Mass hysteriadancing mania. But the lie is half way round the world already and the State Department still bangs on about “unexplained health incidents“.

SKRIPALMANIA. More delay on the Sturgess inquest. Sounds like Litvinenko eh? Same scriptwriers.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. “US Man Warns of ‘Russian Mind Controlling Devices’ in Americans’ Ears, Turns Himself In to FBI“. “Mental illness” or too much corporate media?

OPCW. Corrupted: “Fairweather, the chef de cabinet, invited several members of the drafting team to his office. There they found three US officials who were cursorily introduced without making clear which US agencies they represented. The Americans told them emphatically that the Syrian regime had conducted a gas attack….” Faked: “Its conclusions contradicted the inspector’s version.” False. “Most of the Douma team felt the two reports on the incident, the Interim Report and the Final Report, were scientifically impoverished, procedurally irregular and possibly fraudulent.

WESTERN VALUES. OPCW. MSF. HRW. Squandering credibility that took years to build.

RATS, SHIPS, UKRAINE. Kolomoisky’s interview. Shattering: a major player in post-Maidan Ukraine; funded Azov; fully supported the coup although he fell out with the others; thought by many to be the power behind President Zelensky. Key points. It’s time for Ukraine to turn toward Russia. Washington is forcing Ukraine to be at war – a “war against Russia to the last Ukrainian”. The EU and NATO will never take Ukraine in and it’s time to accept reality. Russia will give money. If the Americans “get smart with us, we’ll go to Russia. Russian tanks will be stationed near Krakow and Warsaw. Your NATO will be soiling its pants and buying Pampers.” He is trying to end the war but is afraid that the Americans “will mess it up and get in the way.” When a Kolomoisky switches sides, it’s over. Stay tuned.

UKRAINE. Just when you thought that everything that could be stolen, had been stolen, they come up with something else. Land sales. Not to foreigners of course; well, maybe a referendum. Big foreign companies have been wanting in and in a country as corrupt as Ukraine laws are a flimsy barrier

MH17. Now there’s some hope in Ukraine, it’s time for the JIT to “discover” something or other.

SHIPS. Moscow has returned to Kiev the ships it captured in November. Video.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer


SYRIA. A master class on patient, intelligent diplomacy engaging all players combined with the judicial application of force, supported by the bravery and skill of its military culminating in the recent screenplay in seven acts. 1 Ankara says it will invade; 2 Washington pulls out (helped along with stones, jeers and vegetables, note the contrast with the Russian reception); 3 Kurds instantly do a deal with Damascus; 4 Syrian army and Russian MPs immediately move; 5 Trump sends some minions to “negotiate” a “ceasefire”; 6 Putin and Erdoğan wrap it up; 7 Ankara says no need for more fighting. Trump announces. Everybody wins except the war party. I have two questions: how involved was Trump in writing the script? (certainly he outwitted the war party) and did any Turkish troops actually cross the border? (don’t see why they needed to). Next stop Idlib. (Russian MP video – Syria owes these men (and women) a lot – usually the first into no man’s land.) I can’t resist saying that consumers of the Western corporate media would have been dumbfounded by every act of the playstill are; NATO and the US Senate ditto. The Four A’s of American Policy Failure in Syria. Saker’s analysis.

DELAMINATION. Did US Secretary of State Pompeo just threaten military action against a NATO ally? Where would that leave the famous Article 5? Anyway, we have the latest failure of the neocons’ PNAC – stones and jeers, bomb your own base because you left so fast, Iraq refuses to take you.

FAKE NEWS. ABC shows Turks slaughtering Kurds – actually a mad minute at a US gun range. But, whatever, an honest mistake that anyone could make.

DIPLOMACY. “But Russia will never be friends with one country against another” and that is why Moscow can put together solutions in places like Syria; people who think it should take sides will be disappointed. It’s a cold-blooded, realistic but effective point of view and Putin has been saying it for years. Moralistic foreign policy is a bust – especially hypocritical moralism. (Putin & Co remember that Moscow used to be “exceptionalist” and have learned from its failure.)

TERRORISM. The FSB Director says law enforcement agencies prevented 39 terrorist attacks and eliminated 49 terrorist cells so far this year; some with US help.

HOLIDAYS. The two most popular air routes are Moscow to Simferopol and Moscow to Sochi. Apart from showing that Russians like sun and sea and are finding them at home, I make two observations. Crimea is, as it used to do, attracting lots of tourists and Sochi was not $15 billion squandered on a once-off Olympics; it was an investment in a sports and tourist destination. Both are paying off.

AIRLINERS. In another blow to the staggering Boeing enterprise, Aeroflot has cancelled its order for 22 Dreamliners. Martynov suggests that this may in fact be another case of import substitution: the MC-21 covers the medium ranges and a new Il-96 (arguably the safest passenger plane in the world) is in the works for long range. So, make them at home, use them at home and sell them to China and the other victims of the “Rules-Based International Order“. Boeing and Airbus can have their little markets.

AURUS the Russian luxury car brand and supplier of the Putinmobile, says it has 600 private pre-orders already. I’m not surprised – I can see Russian plutocrats, who would otherwise buy a luxury Merc, wanting to show their patriotism (or suck up to The Boss) by buying Russian.

TRAIN CARS. Fans of long-range Russian trains can see the new sleeper cars.

ISOLATED. Remember when Putin and Russia were isolated? In the last two weeks, visits to Saudi Arabia and UAE, meeting Erdoğan, calls to Assad, Macron and Merkel. Now a Russia-Africa meeting.

COUP ATTEMPT. Larry Johnson sums up the moving parts of the conspiracy against Trump.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. A retired admiral appears to call for a coup and Tulsi is a Russian asset. Taibbi sums it up “Everyone Is a Russian Asset“.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. At least it was a warship and not a cruise ship. (The comments add another coating of stupidity.)

UKRAINE. Chairman of the National Corps Andrei Biletsky gave President Zelensky until Friday to drop all Minsk obligations. The guns have spoken, all Zelensky has is the support of the population; now what happens? There’s a theory (but how can he pull it off? – the guns will go nuts) that he “renounces” the contested territories – the so-called Cyprus scenario. Meanwhile some congressmen have called on the US State Department to declare Azov to be international terrorists.

SANCTIONS. Another failure: Huawei VP says sanctions pushed it to self-reliance.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer


HEALTH. Paul Robinson reads junk so that I don’t have to: a book by some academic explaining why so many Russians (wrongly – of course!) support the horrible Putin. Well, only a tenured intullekchul couldn’t figure it out. (I can never forget Orwell’s “There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.“) Here’s two (more) reasons why so many Russian have liked and trusted Putin & Co for so long. An excellent report from Awara on Russian longevity. “In 2000, the difference in life expectancy between the two countries [USA and Russia] was 11.1 years or 14.5% in favor of the US. But by 2019, the difference had shrunk to only 4.8 years or 6.1% “. As it were, 20 years of Putin & Co cost his voters only 12! Suicides, homicides and infant mortality are also way down: a third or less of what they were in 2000. Boozing has dramatically decreased – a WHO report says down by 43%. Excessive drinking – especially binge drinking – was a weighty contributor to low life expectancies, suicide, homicide and infant mortality. The health system is improving hugely and Russians no longer have to drink their way through the Time of Stagnation and the misery and hopelessness of the 1990s. Many causes, certainly, but no one (except silly intullekchuls) could deny Putin and his team a lot of the credit. If you were a Russian, you’d support them too (well, maybe not if there’s enough American money – Navalniy’s operation just declared a foreign agent, BTW.) Putin and his team are doing what people hire governments to do. (I leave the reader to contemplate his own government’s achievements. Russia’s curves are all going up; ours are all going down. What will we see in another 20 years? And that’s not even mentioning China. For the West it looks bad. We want to start hoping that they – and Iran – are magnanimous in victory.)

NEW NWO. In August Rosneft said it would be moving to Euros to denominate its contracts, it has now done so. Ankara has signed on to the Russia replacement for SWIFT.

VISAS. Quick internet visas for St Petersburg are now being issued; the plan is that this will spread to the rest of Russia next year. Apparently the happy experience with the World Cup was the inspiration. The government is pushing tourism and I would expect it to grow significantly. Russian “soft power” is pretty inept but maybe they’re starting to figure it out: the experience of most visitors is that Russia “shows well”. For those of us in the “Five Eyes” the tiresome old procedure will remain.

SANCTIONS. US foreign policy today seems to be threats, bombs and sanctions. A GAO report declines to judge whether sanctions (20 countries!) are effective. (Are the other two effective?).

REMEMBER when they used to say once KGB always KGB? Does that also apply to former members of organs of state security who are now all over US TV as “independent experts”?

THE EMPTINESS OF FORMER FLAPS I. Years ago the anti-Russia mob were telling us that Moscow was doing something nefarious about Caspian Sea boundaries. I predicted the ultimate answer would be Baku’s and so, grosso modo, it has proved to be. The seabed is divided by the five. Putin just ratified it.

THE EMPTINESS OF FORMER FLAPS II. Remember the Russian submarine in Sweden in 2014? Well, not Russian: a “Swedish object”? It was pushed to boost defence spending. You’ll be glad to know Swedish state TV launched a campaign against fake news spread, apparently, only by Trumputin.

PROTESTS. Still believe they’re real? Read this.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Pelosi sees Russia’s “hand” in the Ukraine business and the NYT discovers a top secret scary Russia unit that’s bungled everything it tries to do. (Extremely unsecret, in fact.)

UKRAINE. After his disappointing meeting with Trump (“I really hope that you and President Putin get together“), Zelensky went home and signed on to the “Steinmeier Formula“. Which is really just a way of getting Kiev to do what it is already supposed to do in the Minsk agreements. Protests began immediately. Zelensky is in a difficult position: the plutocrats – who have the money – like to keep Ukraine lawless so they can steal more; the nazis – who have the guns – ditto; Trump doesn’t care and Europe is sick and tired of the mess. I reiterate that, at the end, I expect Ukraine to be much smaller.

WHERE DID IT GO? According to the head of Ukraine’s Central Bank, there is almost no gold left.

MH17. This could become interesting: Netherlands MPs demand investigation into Ukraine’s role. Do you think Zelensky might be tempted to blame his predecessors for that and the Maidan shooting?

SYRIA. US withdrawal? Or just rearrangement? Ankara’s actions and intentions? Where’s Russia in all this? The US war party is melting down. The Kurds will probably have to to make a deal with Damascus.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer