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Will Putin run again for President? Here’s why he probably will and why he should

Alexander Mercouris

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As 2017 approaches its close, and as the Presidential election in March next year looms closer, the rumour mill in Moscow is working over time speculating about Putin’s intentions.

Whilst most expect Putin to run again, there are some suggestions that he is thinking of an exit, and is considering nominating a successor.

Names which typically get mentioned are Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s Prime Minister, who was Russia’s President between 2008 and 2012, and Lieutenant General Alexey Dyumin, who is currently the Governor of Tula Region.

I have no idea what Putin’s plans are and I doubt that any one of those speculating does either, though I am sure that the top people in the Kremlin all know.  However, I would personally be very surprised if Putin decides not to run again.

Not only does his immense popularity all but guarantee his victory, but there is no indication that anyone else is being prepared to take over from him, which I would expect to be visibly the case by now if Putin really has decided not to run.

The two candidates that most often get mentioned – Prime Minister Medvedev and Lieutenant General Dyumin – are cases in point.

Medvedev has had a low profile recently, and especially because he was President previously I would have thought that if there was a plan for him to run again steps would have been taken by now to bring him forward and to raise his profile.

As for Dyumin, he is clearly an interesting man, with an impressive record in Russia’s military and intelligence services, who apparently played an important role in the events in Ukraine and Crimea in 2014.

Moreover as an ex-military officer he is the sort of person who would be likely to appeal to what might be loosely called the “left patriotic” side of Russia’s political spectrum.

However Dyumin’s entire career up to his appointment in 2016 as the Tula Region’s Governor was in the military, intelligence and security services.

He has no background in Russia’s central civilian institutions – the Presidential Administration and the Russian government – whilst his position as Governor of the Tula Region, though a very important one, places him well outside the centre of power in the Kremlin.

Dyumin is clearly someone to watch, and his appointment as Governor of the Tula Region may have been intended to bring him closer to the Russian people and to give him experience of Russia’s civilian administration in preparation for greater things.

However it is important to remember that the Tula Region is an important centre of Russia’s defence industries, so appointing a military officer as its Governor at a time when the Russian military is in the throws of a complex period of rearmament is perhaps not quite as surprising as it is sometimes made to appear.

Regardless, it seems on the face of it unlikely that Dyumin’s time is now.

At 45 he has plenty of time ahead of him, and if at some point he is given a job in Russia’s government or in the Kremlin he will become someone to take very seriously.

However realistically, if he is being considered as a possible future President, then that looks more likely to be in 2024 than in 2018.

There are other possible candidates who might at a stretch stand in Putin’s place in the election next year.

Obvious names are Sergey Shoigu – Russia’s extremely popular and very capable Defence Minister – and Valentina Matviyenko, the ambitious chair of Russia’s Federation Council (the upper house of Russia’s parliament) who has been performing important diplomatic tasks recently.

However again I see little evidence that any of these people are being brought forward in a way that might suggest that they are being prepared to stand for President next year.

In my opinion the delay in announcing that Putin will run is probably explained by a wish to avoid the confusion that arose on the last occasion when that happened in 2011.

It is generally accepted that on that occasion the announcement was botched, giving a further spark to the street protests that took place that year.

My guess is that the Kremlin this time wants to keep the election period as short as possible so as to avoid anything like that happening again, which is why the announcement that Putin is standing again is being delayed to the last possible moment.

However in saying all this a word of caution is in order.

On the last two occasions when Russia held Presidential elections – in 2008 and in 2012 – I got the Presidential nominee in both cases wrong.

In 2008 I expected Putin to nominate his longstanding ally Sergey Ivanov, but he chose Dmitry Medvedev instead.  In 2012 I expected Medvedev to stand again, but he and Putin decided that it should be Putin who would run instead.

Obviously those mistakes makes me less confident about my predictions for next year.

Of two things however I am sure.

The first is that an article which recently appeared in the Independent saying that Putin is “tired” is certainly wrong.  Bryan MacDonald has provided a detailed response, but to see why the article is wrong it is only necessary to look at what Putin has been doing over the last few days.

Over the last week Putin has (1) chaired a key meeting of his military and defence industry chiefs; (2) met with Presidents Assad of Syria and Zeman of the Czech Republic; (3) is about to meet with Presidents Erdogan of Turkey, Rouhani of Iran, and Al-Bashir of Sudan; (4) has had a series of telephone conversations with President Trump of the United States, President Sisi of Egypt, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, and the Emir of Qatar; (5) has travelled to Crimea to unveil a monument to Tsar Alexander III; and has had well publicised meetings with (6) Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin (to discuss production of Russia’s supersonic TU-160 bomber); (7) the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia; and (8) the head of Russia’s taxation service.

This pace of activity does not suggest someone who is “tired”.

Irrespective of what Putin’s plans are, my clear view is that this would be completely the wrong moment for him to leave the Presidency.

Relations with the West remain extremely tense.  Vacating the Presidency to someone else will be seen as a sign of weakness in the West, and may lead to exorbitant and dangerous expectations of a change of course.  After all that is what happened when Putin left the Presidency in 2008.

Far from this reducing tensions it is easy to see how after a brief thaw this could heighten tensions further.

That too after all is what happened after Putin left the Presidency in 2008, with the so-called ‘reset’ quickly followed by the so-called ‘second Cold War’.

Far better that the Western powers should be made to understand that no change in direction or policy in Russia is going to happen, so that they eventually accommodate themselves to this fact.  Knowledge that Putin will continue to be around for a further six years is the only obvious way to do it.

The situation in the Middle East remains extremely unsettled, with all eyes on Russia to achieve a fair and equitable settlement of the Syrian war.

That requires someone with great experience and authority and supreme diplomatic skills to see the process through.  No potential successor to Putin has these qualities – all of which require long experience to acquire – to anything like the degree that Putin does.

Closer to home, the situation in Ukraine remains extremely dangerous.

The peace process in the conflict in the Donbass is at an impasse, with low level fighting on the contact line going on all the time.  Despite occasional claims of stabilisation, the pressure on living standards in the rest of Ukraine continues, with the underlying economic dynamics continuing to spiral down.

Political pressures appear to be increasing, with Poroshenko’s popularity having collapsed, and with a protest tent city once more on Maidan Square, but with no one having the authority or the popularity to take over.

In such a situation the danger of a further escalation in the conflict and of a further outbreak of violence is very real, with the Maidan government already embroiled in bitter quarrels with its former ‘friends’: Poland, Belarus and Hungary, and fully capable of restarting the war at any time.

It is probably not an exaggeration to say that it is fear of Putin that is at least in part responsible for keeping the situation in Ukraine in check, and if he goes there has to be a very real danger that a simultaneously pressured and emboldened Kiev might see this as a sign of weakness and go for broke by restarting the war.

Were such a thing to happen would an inexperienced and untried successor to Putin know how to handle it, especially given that Ukraine would probably once more have Western support?

Putin has also developed an exceptional rapport with any number of world leaders eg. Xi Jinping of China, Modi of India, Erdogan of Turkey, Salman of Saudi Arabia, Netanyahu of Israel, Sisi of Egypt, and Abe of Japan.

Such a rapport is not automatically transferable to a successor, and at a time when the international situation is so tense it looks reckless to throw this asset away.

Turning to Russia’s domestic situation, the country has now exited recession but the very tight (in my opinion over-tight) monetary policy followed by the Central Bank – which is now being criticised by no less an institution than the IMF – has slowed growth and depressed living standards even as inflation has fallen faster than expected.

Putin’s immense popularity has limited the political damage, but there can be no assurance that this will continue under a less popular successor.

More than anything else what Russia needs now is political stability so that the hard work of stabilising the economy and of reducing inflation following the oil price fall and the 2015 inflation spike is given time to bear fruit.

There are good reasons to think that sometime after 2018 things will start to improve both internationally and domestically, with the Syrian war ended, relations with China continuing to deepen, a new more amenable post-Merkel government in Germany, possibly a more civil relationship with the US, and the economy putting on growth.

That will be the time for Putin to think about going and to prepare a successor, who might be Dyumin or someone else.

To do so now by contrast looks premature and reckless, putting everything which has been achieved at risk, and I hope Putin and his colleagues recognise the fact.

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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EU’s ‘toothless’ response to creation of Kosovo army risks worsening the crisis – Moscow

Russia’s ambassador to the UN said that the EU could have and should have done more to stop the breakaway region from creating its own army.

RT

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Via RT…


The creation of Kosovo’s own 5,000-strong army is a threat to peace and security in a turbulent region and may lead to a new escalation, Russia’s UN envoy has warned, calling the EU’s lackluster response irresponsible.

Speaking at the UN Security Council emergency meeting on Kosovo, Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzya said that the EU could have and should have done more to stop the breakaway region from creating its own army to replace its lightly armed emergency response force.

“The EU reaction to the decision by Pristina cannot be described as other than toothless. This irresponsible policy has crossed the line,” Nebenzya said, after the UNSC meeting on Monday.

The diplomat said the lack of decisive action on the part of the 28-member bloc was a “great disappointment,” adding that the EU seems to “have turned a blind eye on the illegal creation of Kosovo’s ‘army.’”

The law, approved by Kosovo lawmakers on Friday, paves the way for doubling the size of the current Kosovo Security Force and for turning it into a de facto army, with 5,000 soldiers and 3,000 reservists.

The move did not go down well even with Kosovo’s usual backers, with both NATO and the EU voicing their indignation. NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg called the decision “ill-timed” and lamented that Kosovo’s authorities had ignored “the concerns expressed by NATO.”

The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, has echoed those concerns, saying in a statement that the mandate of Kosovo’s forces “should only be changed through an inclusive and gradual process” in accordance with the state’s constitution.

The only nation to openly applaud the controversial move was the US, with its ambassador to Kosovo, Phillip Kosnett, saying that Washington “reaffirms its support” for the upgrade as it is “only natural for Kosovo as a sovereign, independent country” to have a full-fledged army.

The Kosovo MPs’ decision has drawn anger in the Serbian capital Belgrade and provoked a strong response from Moscow, which calledon the UN mission in Kosovo to demilitarize the area in accordance with UNSC resolution 1244, and to disband any armed units.

Nebenzya pointed out that the UN resolution does not allow any Kosovo Albanian military units to be present in the region’s territory. He accused Western countries, including members of the NATO-led international peacekeeping force (KFOR), of “condoning and supporting” the violation by Pristina of the resolution.

It is feared that the army, though a relatively small force, might inflame tensions in the region and impede attempts at reconciliation between Pristina and Belgrade. Serbia has warned that it might consider an armed intervention if the army becomes a threat to the 120,000-strong Serb minority in Kosovo.

“The advance of Kosovo’s army presents a threat to the peace and security in the region, which may lead to the recurrence of the armed conflict,” Nebenzya stated.

In addition to creating its own army, Kosovo in November hit Serbia with a 100 percent import tariff on goods, defying calls by the US and the EU to roll the measure back.

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Ukraine’s President Says “High” Threat Of Russian Invasion, Urges NATO Entry In Next 5 Years

Poroshenko is trying desperately to hold on to power, even if it means provoking Russia.

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Via Zerohedge


Perhaps still seeking to justify imposing martial law over broad swathes of his country, and attempting to keep international pressure and media focus on a narrative of “Russian aggression,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denounced what he called the high “threat of Russian invasion” during a press conference on Sunday, according to Bloomberg.

Though what some analysts expected would be a rapid flair up of tit-for-tat incidents following the late November Kerch Strait seizure of three Ukrainian vessels and their crew by the Russian Navy has gone somewhat quiet, with no further major incident to follow, Poroshenko has continued to signal to the West that Russia could invade at any moment.

“The lion’s share of Russian troops remain” along the Russian border with Ukraine, Poroshenko told journalists at a press conference in the capital, Kiev. “Unfortunately, less than 10 percent were withdrawn,” he said, and added: “As of now, the threat of Russian troops invading remains. We have to be ready for this, we won’t allow a repeat of 2014.”

Poroshenko, who declared martial law on Nov. 26, citing at the time possible imminent “full-scale war with Russia” and Russian tank and troop build-up, on Sunday noted that he will end martial law on Dec. 26 and the temporarily suspended presidential campaign will kick off should there be no Russian invasion. He also previously banned all Russian males ages 16-60 from entering Ukraine as part of implementation of 30 days of martial law over ten provinces, though it’s unclear if this policy will be rescinded.

During his remarks, the Ukrainian president said his country should push to join NATO and the EU within the next five years, per Bloomberg:

While declining to announce whether he will seek a second term in the office, Poroshenko said that Ukraine should achieve peace, overcome the consequences of its economic crisis and to meet criteria to join the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during next five years.

But concerning both his retaining power and his ongoing “threat exaggeration” — there’s even widespread domestic acknowledgement that the two are clearly linked.

According to The Globe and Mail:

While Mr. Poroshenko’s domestic rivals accuse him of exaggerating the threat in order to boost his own flagging political fortunes — polls suggest Mr. Poroshenko is on track to lose his job in a March election — military experts say there are reasons to take the Ukrainian president’s warning seriously.

As we observed previously, while European officials have urged both sides to exercise restraint, the incident shows just how easily Russia and the West could be drawn into a military conflict over Ukraine.

Certainly Poroshenko’s words appear designed to telegraph just such an outcome, which would keep him in power as a war-time president, hasten more and massive western military support and aid, and quicken his country’s entry into NATO — the latter which is already treating Ukraine as a de facto strategic outpost.

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