The Third Turn. Eugene Ivanov points out a decline – but not absence – of hostile coverage about Russia in some of the Western MSM recently. Too early, of course, to draw big conclusions, but one cannot shout that the Russians are coming – the “gas weapon”, conquering Georgia, subverting Estonia etc etc – forever without some evidence that it is happening.
The Only Story. One of his aides says Medvedev will make his announcement in the autumn. I believe that there is a difference of opinion in the Duumvirate on the timing: Putin – ever cautious – wants to get the Duma elections out of the way; Medvedev wants to announce earlier. Thus “the autumn” may be the compromise. I expect Medvedev to say he will and Putin to say he won’t.
Personnel change. More changes in the police senior ranks. And, I have heard, more firings of senior military officers for unstated reasons.
Elections. There is a wide-spread assumption that United Russia’s domination is fraudulent (although I can’t recall anyone actually having the foolishness to claim that, otherwise, some other party would dominate). Anatoly Karlin takes the effort to move past assumptions to evidence to show that the results accord with opinion polls. But, for so much Russia coverage, it’s all “decision-based evidence making”.
Corruption. Yuriy Chayka, the Prosecutor General (just re-confirmed)says that more than 40,000 corruption cases were begun in 2010: “We consider it progress”. Somewhat more than a drop in the bucket I would say.
Belarus. The EU, which is in another anti-Belarus phase, has tightenedsanctions. (For a brief moment Belarus was another victim of the Russian “energy weapon”).There have been protests, aided by social media, against the economic situation and it is said, across the country, 450 arrests. I believe that Belarus’s avoidance of economic reality is coming to an end but I expect it will be some time yet before the full consequences hit. One of the keys to how long Lukashenka can keep his Soviet-lite economy running is energy costs and here Belarus is dependent on Russia. But Moscow, years ago, made the decision to move prices for its ex-Soviet customers up to the Western Europe level, step-by-step. And, the fact is that cheap energy prices were a drag on these countries’ ability to modernise their economies. So Russia’s 15-year cheap prices were probably not doing them any favours. Both Belarus and Ukraine are experiencing this reality today.Patrick Armstrong received a PhD from Kings College, University of London, England in 1976 and retired in 2008 after 30 years as an analyst for the Canadian government, specializing in first the USSR and then Russia. He was a Political Counselor in the Canadian Embassy in Moscow from 1993 to 1996. He has been a frequent speaker at the Wilton Park conferences in the UK. His weekly SitRep appears on the Russia:Other Points of View blog and is reproduced here with permission.