May 15, 2015
Russia Daily Brief for May 15, 2015
This is the 40th edition of the Daily Brief, which covers stories trending on Russian social media. To view other editions, click on the Daily Brief tab above the title.
Isolation’s “swan song”
Svyatoslav Knyazyev points out that Kerry’s Sochi visit was characterized by almost showy friendliness, down to laying down a wreath at a local war memorial, as if to compensate for US leaders’ failure to appear in Moscow on May 9. He believes there are many reasons for this turn of events. EU is pressing the US to stop escalating the situation because its Western members don’t want any more migrants from anywhere on the planet, including countries already in the EU. Kiev itself did a lot to irritate its “partners” by constant assurances it was receiving lethal weapons and training from NATO (none of which ever materialized, except for the token US effort). Poroshenko’s insane boasts of retaking Donetsk Airport were the proverbial “icing on the cake.” Putin, by contrast, has been steadfast in his position on Ukraine and other issues, and has established (or re-established) a reputation as a trustworthy partner who is far more likely to deliver on commitments than any given “pro-European” Ukrainian leader. But Kiev elite is not the only loser in this–Russia’s “liberal opposition” has suffered major reputational damage as well. It couldn’t deliver that which the West expected, and its narrative of the Ukraine crisis aimed at swaying the Russian masses fell flat when confronted with reality.
According to political science professor Yaroslav Solovyov, the current parade of Western leaders lining up to negotiate with Putin is the third phase of the combination of moves which began with Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Solovyov supposes that what they are really discussing behind close doors are spheres of influence of Western powers and Russia, in order to de-escalate the situation and allow Western powers to back down without humiliation.
The Kemerovo region Aman Tuleyev is the leader of the pack! Governors are rated against several criteria, including unemployment, economic growth, corruption, etc. It’s an effective forge of cadres for federal positions. At the same time, regional governors have a great deal of authority over their regions–it would be a mistake to view the Kremlin as the only center of Russian governance.
Consequences for messing up are usually not long in coming. The governors’ ratings are taken seriously, and no amount of campaign promises, campaign cash, or sheer electioneering can cover up poor performance.
US politicians don’t understand Russia and don’t want to understand it, instead preferring to remain shrouded by a veil of self-serving myths of US exceptionalism. As a result US actions have the effect of unnecessarily provoking Russia, starting with the US declaration of victory in the Cold War shortly after USSR’s break-up. However, these challenges aren’t part of some US grand strategy, but rather missteps by individual political leaders who are poorly equipped to discharge the responsibilities of their offices.
According to Melkulangar Bkhadrakumar, a former diplomat and a political scientist, Kerry’s Sochi visit demonstrated America’s recognition of Russia’s interests and willingness to hold talks. Bkhadrakumar also noted that Obama’s main mistake was the administration unwillingness to acknowledge Russia’s legitimate security and economic interests, which actually set him apart from his two predecessors, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, both of whom understood that the US cannot afford to ignore Russia’s views and interests when dealing with regional crises. Aside, from that, it’s not even the same Russia that Bill Clinton dealt with. Kerry’s desire to turn the page was also evident in the fact that he did not bring Victoria Nuland, the architect of the Maidan Coup, with him to Sochi.
There’s already disagreement. France proposes 785 million euro upon Russia’s written permission for France to dispose of the ships as it sees fit. Russia is asking for 1.16 billion euro and does not intend to issue any re-export permits before it receives the money. Turns out Rogozin was right after all–as long as the contract is in force, France can’t do anything with the ships without Russia’s permission.
Rosatom specialists are developing munitions for the T-14
The goal is simple: the gun’s projectiles must have a high degree of certainty of penetrating frontal armor of even the most heavily protected tanks at normal battle ranges. Rosatom’s contribution may lie in its mastery of conventional explosives and material science in general, but it may also be an indication that the T-14 will be equipped with depleted uranium munitions.
As I predicted, like, a day or two ago, the ruble’s dip below $50 would almost certainly lead the Russian Central Bank to buy up international currencies so as to expand its foreign reserves and, equally crucially, prevent the ruble from strengthening to the point of making Russia’s import substitution strategy commercially ineffective. And that’s exactly what happened, leading to a brief spike in the ruble exchange rate. So the ruble is in extremely favorable situation. Market forces want it to strengthen, but since the RCB is now giving its full support to the import substitution strategy, the strengthening trend gives it the ability to expand foreign reserves. Win-win.
Dmitriev, the director of RPFI, or the Russian Direct Investment Fund, notes that Chinese investors are interested in investing in major Russian projects, though at the moment the influx of Chinese capital is relatively moderate. The agreements recently signed between Russia and China ought to facilitate that trend, as they create a legal framework for economic activity. Moreover, China is not the only major Asian investor in Russia–Singapore’s financial institutions are also filling the vacuum left behind by Western firms.
Deputy Finance Minister Sergey Storchak announced (evidently by cell-phone…) that the two institutions have held a meeting to discuss the resumption of full-scale financial dialogue. It was the first such meeting since Treasury’s imposition of sanctions on Russian banks, and it is yet another sign of the gradual de-escalation of tensions between the two countries.
PayPal informed the owner of the account that the company is not interested in facilitating the financing of political parties or movements in Russia. Treacherous Putin strikes again!
Russian officials suspect the writers of the report considerably embellished facts in order for the report to “sell” better with certain Western audiences and funders.
Hilarity ensues. Even though these are perfectly edible foods. Funniest comment: “This is what they serve in the capital of Hunger Games.”
Moreover, DPR intelligence claims UAF is stockpiling ammunition and conducting flights along the front lines using drones and attack aircraft.
Federation Council member Aleksandr Kosachev advised Ukraine to grant the Donbass a special autonomous status, otherwise it risks losing the region entirely, since there is no likelihood of it ever returning to Ukraine as an ordinary component of that country.
The local inhabitants complained about incessant shellings by Azov Regiment and were shown evidence of the bombardments. The mood in Sakhanka is strongly against the UAF and Kiev, and the OSCE delegation got an earful.
A 61 year old man in the Volhyn Region drenched himself with gasoline and then it it on fire. He died of burns in hospital. Nothing further has been reported about the case, but one can understand the desperation that must have driven him into this tragic act.
IMF required Ukraine to restructure $15 billion of its debt in order to qualify for the next round of IMF bailout. However, Western creditors have flatly refused to play ball, since “restructurization” in plain English means they lose money. A lot of money. Russia has adopted a similar position which means that come July, the IMF will be faced with a difficult choice: give Ukraine money even though it hasn’t met conditions, or watch Ukraine default. I suspect that at this point the West actually wants to see Ukraine default, so as to finally force it to start the privatization process. Not to mention that when you are in default, you are a distressed seller which means you sell at basement bargain prices.
At the same time Poroshenko accused Russia of keeping 11 thousand soldiers on the Donbass. Beatings will continue until attitude improves…
…and beatings are continuing. Suddenly US media is starting to print stories critical of Poroshenko, as it to let him know that if he doesn’t like the US carrots, he may get to enjoy the US stick. Because two yellow cards means ejection from the game…
ZDF took Poroshenko to task for his nationalistic rhetoric which only antagonizes large segments of Ukraine’s population, as well as his inability to tamp down on corruption and general lack of trustworthiness. Poroshenko in turn said
“neener neener, I can’t hear you” ZDF ought to stop reading Russian newspapers.
That’s how the current situation was characterized by Irish journalist and political observer Brian McDonald, who also writes that Obama has to start worrying about his own reputation and legacy, now that he’s got only 1.5 years left in the White House. Moreover, US needs Russia’s cooperation to deal with all manner of other problems, including in the Middle East. And, as a final note, one wonders about the extent to which the UAF’s disastrous showing during the 173rd Airborne’s heroic attempt to train them influenced Kerry’s willingness to meet with Putin on his own home turf. Because these recent developments are not only a reflection of the effectiveness of Russia’s foreign policy. They are also a reflection of Ukraine’s failures.
Other Former Soviet Republics
Kirgiziya is the fifth
President Almazbek Atambayev signed documents of Kirgiziya’s accession to the Eurasian Union.
Artuss Kayminsh was disturbed by the flight attendants’ use of English and Russian but (gasp!) not Latvian on the flight from London to Riga. His aggressive behavior caused him to be arrested upon the plane’s arrival in Riga.
The Rest of the World
Media learns about Egypt’s desire to procure S-300 air defense systems
military would not confirm or deny the report, however, it also
reassured Israel that the weapons would pose no threat to the Jewish
state, because they would be aimed to the East, not North. Is Egypt eyeing the possibility of annexing a piece of Libya?
Polish media reports they were running an operation financing ISIS. Polish media does not report that Poland is still in its “little green men” panic mode.
The Saudi-inspired drop in oil prices seems to have had the US, not Russia, as its main target, as it’s now unlikely that the US production will recover to the same levels as it did under the 6.5 years of Obama. Everyone knows that the Saudis could decimate the industry one more time, should they choose to. For its part, the US blundered into an oil war with Saudi Arabia for the same reason it blundered into one with Russia and is blundering into one with China as well–just look who’s running the show in Washington, D.C. This administration can’t end a day too soon.
Isn’t it always? Especially when it comes to bombing people who can’t bomb right back. The latest display of European values concerns the EU proposal to sink boats used for ferrying migrants from North African countries hopelessly destabilized by Western “humanitarian interventions.”