Coming to you weekly since when Chernenko ran the USSR, still the best analysis out there, with by far the longest institutional memory.
THE NEW NWO AND RUSSIA. This is very much worth reading. The authors argue that in the coming (well, already here) rivalry between the American maritime power and the Chinese land power, Russia is the swing player that can hand victory to one or the other: “So logic says that the US should be very nice to Russia and seek to establish some kind of military alliance”. Well, logic’s voice isn’t loud enough for the US Congress to hear. Also interesting is their discussion of Germany’s choices and the important role Saudi Arabia could play if it changes protectors again. (I too wondered this two years ago.)
PUTIN’S POPULARITY. Some Western academics asked “But is his popularity real, or are respondents lying to pollsters?” and concluded “Putin’s approval ratings largely reflect the attitudes of Russian citizens.” I didn’t bother to read their paper because I know – as does any serious observer – the answer already. Of course he’s popular: he is the leader of a team which has achieved a tremendous turnaround in Russia’s situation. Since 2000 all indicators are up. I wish we could say the same in our part of the world.
USSR DEBT. With a payment to Bosnia, Moscow has paid off the last of the debt it inherited from the USSR. When an earlier agreement that the 15 would divide the debt fell apart, Moscow took responsibility for all of it in return for USSR assets abroad. It did this despite the fact that its creditors insisted on repayment while many of its debtors could not pay. The total was about USD80 billion and many debts to it were forgiven. I well remember how glad we all were that it took responsibility for the debts as well as the other leftovers: weaponry outside, nuclear weapons and its guarantee of Russian citizenship to any Soviet citizen who wasn’t automatically given citizenship where he lived. It was only later that the last three were rebranded as evidence of imperialistic intentions.
DEMOGRAPHICS. There has been a small net decline in Russia’s populationthis year after several years of growth. We will see if this is a bump or a trend. (Although Karlin, who is much more knowledgeable than I, predicted a return to “normal” rates two and a half years ago.)
AGRICULTURE. The Agriculture Minister estimates the grain harvest will be 110 million tonnes which would leave as much as 40 million for export. So Russia will presumably keep the title of number one.
VISA RETALIATION. My take: I believe Moscow is ready to follow Washington right down to zero representation is that’s where it goes. But, if the Russiagate bubble bursts (probably the most severe blow is the exposure of the Guccifer 2.0 fake by VIPS) then the original pretext will burst too and things can get back to normal.
MAKING WATER RUN UP HILL. Lithuania is getting LNG from the USA and Ukraine coal from the USA. More expensive but supposedly for security. Well, whatever: if they want to pay more, let them. Of course in all likelihood they will “pay” with IMF or EU loans. Payback’s a problem for later.
CHANGE OR BLIP? The Prime Minister says Riga is interested in better relations with Moscow and a Polish poll shows number who regard Russia as a threat down about 50% in 3 years. After all, despite years of “Europe faces a ‘real threat’ from Russia” Russia still hasn’t conquered anybody. But that just makes some people shout louder: “The growing Russian military threat in Europe“.
TRUMP KEEPS AFGHANISTAN GOING. Reinforcing failure. Trump Vows To Leave A Better Afghanistan For Nation’s Grandchildren To Fight In. The generals rolled him, as they rolled Obama. And if it really was short skirts, then there’s a lot more to that story than he, or McMaster, probably know. Today the Americans get their supplies in via Pakistan or the Central Asian countries (through Russia). Washington has made threatening noises at Pakistan and Russia. How then?
AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Newsweek discovers a new bottom level. “Charlottesville’s Alt-right Leaders Have a Passion for Vladimir Russian Federation President Putin“.
UKAINE. More signposts of disaster. Ukrainians now spend 50% of their income on food; not poverty says the Minister of Social Policy fatuously but because they like to eat well. The Economist rates Kiev among the ten least liveable cities. Did Ukraine supply the rocket motors to North Korea? And, I’ve mentioned this before, but the longest-lasting effect of the Kiev coup may be a nuclear disaster.
Source: Russia Observer