“Kremlin views Trump as ‘stupid, un-strategic, and manipulable,'” and other neglected Russian stories

Putin Trump chicken

 

2017/02/25 • Analysis & Opinion, Politics, Russia

The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and strange as the Russian Federation often appears to be is far too large for anyone to keep up with. But there needs to be a way to mark those which can’t be discussed in detail but which are too indicative of broader developments to ignore.

Consequently, Windows on Eurasia presents a selection of 13 of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the 72nd such compilation. It is only suggestive and far from complete – indeed, once again, one could have put out such a listing every day — but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.

1. Putin, World’s Richest Man, Now ‘Personification of Evil’

Several Western media outlets have calculated that Vladimir Putin is now worth at least 200 billion US dollars, making him by far the richest man on earth. But that has not prevented him from becoming, MGIMO professor Valery Solovey says, “the personification of evil,” a status few leaders since Hitler have achieved.

This week, however, he was increasingly elevated for other reasons by Russians:

  • LDNR head Vladimir Zhirinovsky said the Kremlin leader should be addressed like as king or emperor as “Your Majesty.”
  • Duma deputy proposed amending the constitution so that Putin could be declared president for life and not have to worry about anything as trivial as elections ever again.
  • The campaign to make it a crime to criticize him continues, and one analyst points to an important feature of the Putin media: it is used not just to set the agenda of the population but also and sometimes more importantly for settling accounts among members of the Moscow elite.

2. Kremlin Views Trump as ‘Stupid, Un-Strategic, and Manipulable,’ Moscow Editor Says

Mikhail Fishman, editor of the English-language Moscow Times, says that Moscow has “made a puppet” of the new US president, “playing” him because people in the Kremlin “consider him a stupid, un-strategic politician” and thus someone “Putin is confident he can manipulate.” His words echo what is supposedly contained in a seven-page dossier on Trump that the Kremlin ordered prepared according to US outlets but that Putin’s press secretary has denied any knowledge of.

Over the last week, as Trump has made statements and selected officials Russia is less than pleased with, the Russian media has swung against the US president both qualitatively – stories about him are increasingly critical – and quantitatively – Russian media mentions of Trump have fallen by 75 percent. Putin’s press spokesman did go out of his way to say, however, that the Kremlin had not issued orders that the media refer to Trump less often.

Two other Trump-Russia stories failed to get much notice:

3. Moscow Works Hard to Hide Continuing Slide of Russian Economy

Russian officials and media outlets trumpeted the fact that there was a rise in the disposable incomes of Russians during January, claims that attracted interest in some Western outlets although ones that have been dampened by analysis showing that this upward tick was solely the result of one-time payments to pensioners. A similar pattern is likely to obtain when Moscow changes its official market basket definition next month.

Meanwhile, however, the bad economic news continued to flood it:

  • Moscow’s cash reserves fell by 100 million US dollars in the last week alone
  • There was a 20 percent decline in new housing last month as compared to an already low level from the prior year
  • Rosneft announced that its profits had been halved between 2015 and 2016
  • Pricing on existing homes has fallen 11.8 percent year on year as demand shifts to less expensive.

Two additional pieces of economic news are especially noteworthy:

  • The Russian government is mulling limiting cash purchases of major items as a way of fighting the shadow economy
  • And it is now wrestling with a problem it earlier denied having: people who are employed but who make too little money to rise about the official poverty line.

4. Pensioners Charged with Theft for Stealing Food to Eat; Senator Says They Should Get a Job

Some Russian pensioners are now so poorly off that they are forced to steal small amounts of food from their neighbors in order to survive. The Russian government is siding with the neighbors and bringing charges against the starving elderly. Still more insensitively, one Russian senator says old people who don’t have enough money for food should “get a job.”

Protests continue to spread across Russia and to become more political. (For a sample of reports on them, see politsovet.ru, ura.ru, echo.msk.ru, echo.msk.ru, ixtc.org, progorodsamara.ru and idelreal.org.)

There are plenty of other causes that may spark more demonstrations in the future:

  • Russia now ranks last in the effectiveness of its healthcare system and its medical education system is collapsing
  • Two-thirds of Russian food-processing firms are said to violate sanitary norms
  • Ten percent of milk on the shelves of Russian stories is adulterated
  • Street violence is rising to the point that one commentator says Moscow now resembles Tombstone in the old American West
  • Muscovites now wait in car traffic lines longer than the residents of any other city in the world except Los Angeles
  • Aeroflot retains antiquated and unfair work rules for its flight attendants and they are suing the company
  • The Russian State Duma is largely eliminating local assemblies’ right to propose laws
  • Moscow is tearing down 8,000 shabby apartment blocks but forcing their residents to move further away from the city center
  • And gas prices continue to rise.

5. St. Isaac’s Cathedral Fight Only the Beginning of Fights over Religious Property

Many Russians are speculating that if St. Isaac’s Cathedral is ultimately handed to the Russian Orthodox Church, many other national treasures including even the Hermitage may be as well. That explains some of the force behind protests against the church on this issue. But there is another emerging challenge: Encouraged by what they see as the Moscow Orthodox Patriarchate’s success, leaders of Russia’s Muslim community are now making plans to claim property that was taken from them and have already had some success in court in that regard.

One matter of particular concern is the emergence of shadowy and often violent supporters of the church, who often change the name of their organizations to avoid being held accountable.

Also this week, Russia acquired its own Macedonia-style name problem as South Ossetia proceeded with its plans to add Alania to its name, something many in the North Caucasus object to.

And just to prove that there is no historical event too old to forget or fought over, this week, activists in Yekaterinburg announced plans to mark the ice battle Alexander Nevsky fought against the Teutonic knights nearly a millennium ago.

6. A Mixed Week on the Athletic Doping Scandal

This week brought fresh evidence of the Russian government’s direct involvement in the doping scandal that has rocked Russian sports since Sochi with several coming forward to say senior officials told athletes that if they ever talked about the doping, they would be banned from competition for life. But at the same time, the Russian sports authorities now have decided to take a hard line against Western demands that they come clean on the doping issue, apparently convinced that they can win out if they do.

They have some basis for optimism: the IOC has given Russian athletes preliminary approval to take part in the 2018 Olympics in Seoul, and the IAAF has allowed three Russian athletes to participate in competitions under neutral flags.

But perhaps the best commentary on the entire matter declared that the Sochi Olympiad, at least as Russians imagined it at the time, was “the last positive event” in that country.

7. Russia’s Force Structures Didn’t Have a Good Week

The last seven days have not been good ones for Russia’s military despite Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s bold talk about a “post-West” world order and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin that Russia now has a third ally (in addition to the army and the fleet) and that this is the defense industry he oversees.

There were anti-war and anti-military protests in various cities and complaints that the Kremlin had chosen the wrong day to honor the defenders of the fatherland and had overly masculinized and militarized Russia’s calendar of holidays.

But there was even worse news:

8. Russia’s Foreign Ministry, a Major Producer of Fake News, Launches Website to Unmask It in Others

The Russian foreign ministry in yet another Orwellian twist has put up a web page devoted to unmasking fake news but only what it claims to be fake news released by others and not what many see as the flood of fake news it produces itself.

9. 37 Languages in Russian Federation Either Dead or Near Death

Experts say that 37 languages that used to be spoken by peoples living in what is now the Russian Federation are extinct or are at the brink of dying in the next few years. Some of those at risk are fighting back.

10. Moscow Mufti Asks Saudis to Allow Gastarbeiters to Use Some of Russia’s Hajj Slots

Ravil Gainutdin, the head of the Council of Muftis of Russia (SMR), has appealed to the Saudi authorities to allow Russia to include 300 to 400 Central Asian and Caucasian migrant workers among the 20,500 hajj slots that Riyadh has allocated to Russia.

On the one hand, this will allow Russia to fill its quota, something it did not do last year because of economic problems; and on the other, it will give Moscow significant leverage over the predominantly Muslim gastarbeiter community.

11. Moscow Wants 100,000 Russians to Study in Chinese Universities by 2020

Even though only about 16,000 Russians are now enrolled in higher educational institutions in China, Moscow would like to see that number rise six-fold over the next three years to 100,000, something that will require a dramatic expansion of Chinese language instruction in Russia and may create problems in China.

12. Moscow Wouldn’t Have Problems with Baltic-Style Non-Recognition Policy on Crimea

According to one Moscow analyst, the Russian government would not be averse to seeing the West adopt a non-recognition policy with respect to Crimea modelled on the one it employed against the Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries. That earlier approach, the analyst says, satisfied Washington’s need to symbolically support the Baltic countries but did not get in the way of cooperation between the US and Moscow.

13. House on the Embankment Marks 86th Anniversary

The House on the Embankment, erected in 1931 to house Soviet officials and their families and made famous around the world by Yuri Trifonov’s novel, is now 86 years old. Because so many Soviet officials passed through it, often on their way to the GULAG or death, its historians say, the building is filled with real and imagined ghosts.

 

And six more from countries near Russia:

1. Ukrainian President Says West Must Not ‘Appease’ Russia

Petro Poroshenko has called on the West not to “appease” Vladimir Putin and his regime, an appeal that calls attention to the ways in which what some Western leaders have been doing in recent years recalls the failed policies of Britain and France in the years before World War II.

At the same time, Kyiv experts argue that Ukraine must use all legal means to hold Moscow accountable even if it is a near certainty that the Kremlin will ignore any decision taken against it.

2. SIPRI Documents Moscow’s Supplying Heavy Weapons to Donbas

The Russian government has introduced troops and provided heavy weapons to those fighting against Kyiv in Ukraine’s Donbas, the respected security analytic center SIPRI says.

The Russian government clearly has enough money to do that, but it doesn’t have enough to feed its own people or to annex eastern Ukraine, according to Moscow commentator Yevgeniya Albats.

3. Kyiv Urged to Recognize Passports of Russia’s Non-Russian Republics, Regions

Now that Vladimir Putin has decided to recognize as official documents, the passports issued by the so-called “Donetsk Peoples Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic” in Ukraine’s Donbas, some Ukrainian commentators have urged that Kyiv announce that it will recognize the passports some non-Russian republics and Russian regions have issued as equally authoritative.

Meanwhile, Belarusian officials say that they do not recognize as official documents the passports the two breakaway regions of Ukraine have.

4. Street in Russian-Occupied Ukrainian City to be Named for Churkin

Russian occupation officials in Ukraine’s city of Simferopol, the capital of the annexed Crimean Peninsula, say that they will name a street there for Vitaly Churkin, who until his recent death was Russia’s permanent representative to the UN and who earlier in career gained notoriety as a Soviet diplomat for his defense of Moscow’s shooting down of the KAL flight in 1983.

5. Afghanistan’s Ambassador in Moscow Says Tajikistan is ‘a Russian country with a Powerful Drug Mafia’

In most undiplomatic language, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the Russian Federation described Tajikistan, which neighbors his homeland, as “a Russian state” that has “a powerful drug mafia.”

6. Nazarbayev Says Officials Who Respond in Russia to Those Speaking Kazakh Will Be Fired

In the latest move in his effort to promote the national language, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev has issued an order that will require that any official who responds in Russian to people who appeal to them in Kazakh will be fired.


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Edited by: A. N.

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  • Robert

    So, what if they’re correct about da Drumpf? They still gotta deal with him. After all, didn’t vlady help get him elected?

    • Mephisto

      Even if Trump does nothing to help Russia, Putin achieved his goal – Trump is destabilizing and weakening the US from within. The New Yorker has a good article about Trump and Putin
      http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/06/trump-putin-and-the-new-cold-war

      • laker48

        After four years, you’ll be tweeting in a different clef.

        • Mephisto

          you seem to be one of those people…

          • laker48

            He at least keeps leftist lemmings guessing all the time. :) BTW, ad hominem attacks disqualify you as a bona fide debater. Suit yourself!

    • laker48

      LOL! The dwarf is drowning katsapstan in its own feces.

  • Alex George

    “because people in the Kremlin “consider him a stupid, un-strategic politician” and thus someone “Putin is confident he can manipulate”.”

    The publication of that report just dramatically increased the prospects of that happening. The Kremlin school of “how to win friends and influence people” is simply… amazing! ;o)

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      After Trump’s statement on the Crimea; his more or less giving US oil companies free rein to increase oil production, thus pushing oil prices down; and Trump announcing a $50 billion increase in the US defence budget today, I wonder whether the dwarf isn’t bitterly regretting meddling in the US election in Trump’s favour. At any rate the US are now back to being the Great Enemy in Dwarfstan’s media.
      The honeymoon is well and truly over.

      • Forewarned

        Let’s hope so. Putin isn’t smart at all really. He makes strategic blunders. Ukraine and Syria stand out in my mind.

  • Alex George

    “The Russian government is mulling limiting cash purchases of major items as a way of fighting the shadow economy”

    Yeah, I can really see that law working. There is a special place in heaven for poor dead anti-black market laws like this, which never had a ghost’s chance of accomplishing anything.

    “According to one, Ramzan Kadyrov’s daughter is going to emulate Trump’s daughter and launch her own fashion line.”

    I had to laugh at this one – apparently he heard Nordstrom had a vacancy in its product line up. Celebrity hijabs will sell just so well in the States…

  • Alex George

    “some Ukrainian commentators have urged that Kyiv announce that it will recognize the passports [which] some non-Russian republics and Russian regions have issued as equally authoritative.”

    Not a bad idea.. ;o)

  • Murf

    I officially declare the Trump/Putin Bromance over.
    Even if Trump is “stupid, unstrategic and manipulable” Pence, Tillerson, Mattis and McMasters are not.
    They are the ones Putin will be dealing with.

    • Scradje

      When Trumpkov himself, rather than one of his sidekicks, clearly states that putlerstan must withdraw finally and irrevocably from the sovereign territory of all three of the nations in Europe it currently illegally occupies, then apologise and pay full reparations in return for a normalization of US/putlerstan relations and a comprehensive free trade deal, that will be confirmation that Trumpkov is not after all, despite his energetic attempts to prove otherwise, a kremlin shill.

    • laker48

      I told that right after he had been elected and have collected a fair share of abuse from different Ukrainian and other pro-Ukrainian idiots. Ukrainian foreign policy is now in the gutter, as well as the EU’s, as idiot Donald Tusk indirectly attacked Trump in his official memo issued to the heads of all EU member states. Only the UK, the Visegrad Group, the Baltic States, Romania and Croatia have assessed the situation properly from their diplomatic points of view. Germany is putting on a brave face, but it’s one of the major subjects of Trump’s attacks for not keeping its defence budget on the 2% of GDP level.

      • Alex George

        “Ukrainian foreign policy is now in the gutter, as well as the EU’s”

        What an absurd and ignorant statement. its not surprising you can state no factual basis for it.

        And no, Germany is not reacting to Trump. Germany’s rearmament started long before Trump was even in politics, or expressed any opinion about defence matters. And there is no indication that Germany has made any change to its trajectory due to Trump’s comments.

        Putin is the driver for European re-armament, not Trump.

        • laker48

          Trump will wipe out Poroshenko and other Ukrainian oligarchs in no time. The US may be behind the Donbas blockade by ATO veterans that has already sent Poroshenko and other oligarchs running for the hills.

          • Alex George

            Oh please, the only thing you are reinforcing here is your lack of understanding of both Ukrainian and US politics, and your hopeless descent into starry-eyed hero-worship of “Trump!!!!!”

            Trump is a US President, no more and no less. He has virtually zero power by himself to influence Ukrainian internal politics. He has also shown zero inclination to disturb Ukrainian oligarchs, and wouldn’t be able to do it even if he wanted to.

            And there is no indication that the US has any input into the Donbass blockade at all. I appreciate that you want to see the US in general, and Trump in particular, as the centre of the universe, but reality begs to differ.

          • laker48

            Let’s wait and see!

          • Alex George

            Good – so you agree that there was no basis for your assurance that “Trump will wipe out Poroshenko and other Ukrainian oligarchs in no time.”

          • laker48

            Don’t put your words in my mouth, please! I rationally expect that Trump won’t sell Ukraine to RuSSia, but he will come heavy-handed on the Kyiv kleptocracy. I also don’t believe that Ukraine will get US Javelins and M270 MLRS long range (up to 70 km) systems as long as the current cast of characters call the shots in Ukraine. The only heavyweight Ukrainian politician Trump trusts is Mikheil Saakashvili, no matter if you like it or not.

            I support ukraine in its fight with RuSSia, no matter how corrupt it is, because it’s Ukrainian corruption and only the Ukrainians should deal with it. RuSSia has no business in Ukraine and Trump seems to share this view. You also need to realise that if by a miraculous chain of events Ukraine had gotten rid of RuSSian troops overnight, it would have taken it at least a generation to achieve the standard of living comparable with Kosovo or Romania.

          • Alex George

            Thank you for this essay, but its way off topic, apparently an attempt to deflect.

            You wrote two things above, that “Trump will wipe out Poroshenko and other Ukrainian oligarchs in no time”, and that the US may be behind the Donbass blockade. There is no credible evidence of either.

          • laker48

            And I don’t recant my words. Another Maidan may be right around the corner, but it has to be financed by someone, as Ukrainians are too poor to stick around the Maidan by the hundreds of thousands 24/7 for a prolonged period of time. Ukraine is now foreign intelligence paradise, major of them being American, British, French, German and, of course, RuSSian ones. After three years of kleptocratic governance by the present cast of characters, it’s a failed state again, and only its army is a treasure island in that ocean of corruption. Read this, please! http://uawire.org/news/how-ukraine-finances-separatists

          • Alex George

            Those comments about Trump haivng power in Ukraine and the US being behind the blockade were obviously wrong. Mistaken comments do not help to clean up Ukraine – rather the reverse.

          • laker48

            Trump and the US have the money Ukraine and the fascist RuSSian Federation don’t. Beggar can’t be choosers.

      • Andrew Chmil

        **LYING** cowardly, Ukr. hating, polak chauvinist SCUMBAG!!!
        (wanna see me prove it? :)))

        YOU were the IDIOT that was all the time talking how TOUGH & SMART Obama was…. the “no drama Obama” — REMEMBER???

        MORON!!!

        http://tinyurl.com/h3gmpem

    • Andrew Chmil

      Here’s something for you …
      via Julia Davis of course:

      http://www.russialies.com/russias-top-260-lies-international-edition/

    • Andrew Chmil

      so it “appears” ….

    • Andrew Chimilewsky’s Daddy!

      Hurrah for Deep State, they castrated American President?

    • Andrew Chimilewsky’s Daddy!

      Trump has people’s support. Majority of the Americans know that true American Enemy is “Deep State”, not Putin.

  • Vol Ya

    a Russian politician states that a pensioner should get a job instead of stealing because he has no food. how pathetic. That pensioner who was stealing was just doing what putin has been doing to the russian nation, stealing.

  • Vol Ya

    putin underestimated trump, as is customary for putin. putin always underestimates his enemies. it is laughable that some people think putin is brilliant when in fact he is as dumb as a sack of cabbages. and even that insults the intelligence of cabbages.